Sunday, October 18, 2015

Poll Finds Fewer Americans than Ever Doubt Climate Change Is Happening

A boat carrying President Barack Obama makes its way to Bear Glacier, which has receded 1.8 miles in approximately 100 years while on a boat tour to see the effects of global warming in Resurrection Cove, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015, in Seward, Alaska. (Photo Credit: AP/Andrew Harnik) Click to Enlarge.
At least 70 percent of Americans now believe that global warming during the last 40 years is real and supported by solid evidence, coinciding with the lowest percentage of Americans who doubt climate change, according to a new poll [pdf] released this week.

Even more startling: the survey also found a dramatic drop during the past year in the number of self-identified Republicans who doubt the existence of climate change, from 41 percent last fall to 26 percent now.

“The big shift here is amongst Republicans, and it is a huge one,” said Barry Rabe, professor of public policy and environmental policy at the University of Michigan, and a co-author of the poll.  “Most survey work has found a gaping divide between self-identified Democrats and Republicans on this issue for many years now.  This suggests that those differences still persist, but have declined significantly.  We did not anticipate this.”

The finding that 70 percent of Americans support the evidence of climate change represents the second-highest level in the history of the survey, which is conducted twice annually — in the spring and fall — by the National Surveys on Energy and the Environment.  The current number is only a slight dip from the 72 percent recorded in 2008, which then likely was “a response to the perception of weather or weather experiences, and before there was a campaign to challenge proposed climate change policies,” Rabe said.  “But then it began to drop almost immediately.”

By this spring, however, the percentage had risen to 63 percent, then jumped during the past six months to 70 percent, almost certainly reflecting concern over severe drought conditions in many parts of the country, Rabe said.  “The drought issue is affecting big regions of the country,” Rabe said.  “Drought is not just a narrow, localized issue now.  A lot of people live in areas where there is some degree of drought.”

Americans cited drought most often as having a “very large” effect on their attitudes, including 61 percent of those who believe climate change is occurring, according to the poll.

“People are often responding to their perception of weather or weather experience,” Rabe said.  “Rather than look at scientific journals or U.N. reports, they have a tendency to look at what last summer or winter was like.  So the drought issue has gone up dramatically.”

The telephone survey contacted more than 900 randomly selected Americans, and was conducted by Rabe, Christopher Borick, professor of political science at Muhlenberg College and director of the Muhlenberg Institute of Public Opinion, and Sarah Mills, a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Michigan’s center for local, state and urban policy, which Rabe directs.

Of those Americans who believe in climate change, a record 65 percent said they were “very confident” of their position, according to the poll.

A majority of Republicans support the evidence behind global warming for the first time since 2008.

Moreover, a record low number of Americans doubt the evidence of climate change, with only 16 percent now holding this view, and a majority of Republicans (56 percent) support the evidence behind global warming for the first time since 2008, when 55 percent of GOP responders believed climate change was real.  Less surprising, strong majorities of Democrats (79 percent) and Independents (69 percent) continue to believe there is solid evidence of global warming.

Read more at Poll Finds Fewer Americans than Ever Doubt Climate Change Is Happening

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