The firms conducted telephone interviews with 600 registered voters, aged 18 to 34, asking a series of questions on climate change and how it’s portrayed in Congress. They found 66 percent of respondents acknowledged climate change as a problem that needed to be addressed, and that a full 80 percent supported President Obama’s recently-announced plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Congressional Republicans, however, take issue with announced regulations of existing coal-fired power plants. But the LCV poll provides more evidence that Americans support taking action on climate change, even if some members of Congress don’t — a recent bipartisan poll from NRDC found 61 percent of Americans backed Obama’s plan, and a survey from April also found the Republican party was “out of touch” with voters in the issue of climate change.
Overall, the poll found broad, bipartisan support for climate change policy and little patience for deniers:
- Among those unfavorable to the president, 56 percent still supported him taking action on climate change.
- 79 percent said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who supported taking action on climate change; similarily, 73 percent they were less likely to vote for someone who opposed climate action plans like the president’s.
- It wasn’t just Democratic respondents who thought climate change deniers were out of touch: 74 percent of Independents and 53 percent of Republicans used the words “ignorant, out of touch, or crazy” to describe deniers.
- Only 26 percent bought the argument that action on climate change would kill jobs — 65 percent said they thought taking action on climate change would create jobs.
Unfortunately, climate science deniers in Congress haven’t yet caught on to their constituents’ views.
This week, House Republicans submitted a proposal that would cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by a third and would deny funding for Obama’s plan to regulate emissions from existing power plants. And last week, Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee — all of which are skeptical of climate change — insisted during a hearing that climate change stopped 15 years ago, despite warnings from climate scientists and members of the insurance industry.
But if more young Republicans speak out on climate change, the party has the potential to undergo a shift, much like it’s (arguably) begun to do with gay marriage. Earlier this month, a Republican aide, who chose to remain anonymous for job security reasons, wrote an award-winning essay urging Republicans to take a “small government, pro-growth conservative stand on climate change.” In a National Journal article from May, Audubon Society President and CEO David Yarnold said he thinks many Republicans’ anti-science rhetoric is spread simply to win favor with their base.
“Most Republicans say the same thing behind closed doors: ‘Of course, I get that the climate is changing, of course I get that we need to do something—but I need to get reelected.’ Somehow they’re going to have to find a safe place on this,” he said.
If Republicans find that they can accept climate science without hurting — and even, if the LCV polling data stands, potentially helping — their chances of reelection, they may be able to evolve on the issue.