Thursday, April 28, 2016

Climate Change Action Emerges as Winning Wedge Issue in 2016

Voter (Credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Click to Enlarge.
A new public opinion survey finds that “Americans across political lines, except conservative Republicans, would support a presidential candidate who strongly supports taking action to reduce global warming.”

The survey of 1,004 registered voters by the Climate Change Communication programs at Yale and George Mason University yielded a number of important findings consistent with earlier polling this year by Gallup.

The new survey found a growing number of registered voters understand global warming is happening:  “Three in four (73%, up 7 points since Spring 2014) now think it is happening.  Large majorities of Democrats — liberal (95%) and moderate/conservative (80%) — think it is happening, as do three in four Independents (74%, up 15 points since Spring 2014) and the majority of liberal/moderate Republicans (71%, up 10 points).”

The researchers point out “only 47% of conservative Republicans think global warming is happening.”  But then they immediately note:  “Importantly, however, there has been a large increase in the number of conservative Republicans who think global warming is happening.  In fact, conservative Republicans have experienced the largest shift of any group—an increase of 19 percentage points over the past two years.”

Part of the reason for this growing public awareness is Pope Francis, who released his encyclical on the environment last year.  Back in November, the same researchers found that “17 percent of Americans and 35 percent of Catholics say his position on global warming influenced their own views of the issue.”  The researches also believe that public awareness has likely been boosted by the the Paris climate accord, the record-smashing winter, and media coverage of climate change.

Climate change and the 2016 presidential election
The researchers found that the number of Americans who are “more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who strongly supports taking action to reduce global warming,” exceeds the number who would be less likely to vote for such a candidate by a factor of 3-to-1 (43 percent to 14 percent).

In particular, climate change has emerged as a winning “wedge issue” in the 2016 race because of the large gap in thinking between conservative Republicans and potential swing voters (like independents and liberal Republicans).  For those who aren’t political junkies, “A wedge issue is a political or social issue, often of a controversial or divisive nature, which splits apart a demographic or population group” — or, in this case, Republicans.

Read more at Climate Change Action Emerges as Winning Wedge Issue in 2016

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