Did Rick Perry’s lies on global warming inadvertently trigger a backlash among voters? Reuters and Stanford’s public opinion expert Jon Krosnick think so:
More Americans than last year believe the world is warming and the change is likely influenced by the Republican presidential debates, a Reuters/Ipsos poll said on Thursday.
The percentage of Americans who believe the Earth has been warming rose to 83 percent from 75 percent last year in the poll conducted Sept 8-12.
Certainly there has been a fair amount of media blowback from Perry’s disinformation, in part because fellow Republican Jon Huntsman took him on (see “Perry’s Climate Lies Win 4 Pinocchios“).
In our topsy-turvy world, Reuters and Krosnick argue the media coverage and backlash to the anti-science remarks of Rick Perry and other GOP presidential contenders has moved many Americans to reject those extremist views:
As Americans watch Republicans debate the issue, they are forced to mull over what they think about global warming, said Jon Krosnick, a political science professor at Stanford University….
“That is exactly the kind of situation that will provoke the public to think about the issue in a way that they haven’t before,” Krosnick said about news reports on the Republicans denying climate change science.
And you thought nothing good could come from the GOP rush to deny basic science. Interestingly, the polling shows that the biggest movement toward understanding the Earth has been warming occurred among independents, a 9.5% rise in those who believe the Earth has been warming.
Of course, the fact that it has been so damn hot around the country with such staggering extreme weather may also be playing a role. Still, the Atlantic‘s senior editor Derek Thompson makes a similar argument in his piece, “Rick Perry, Accidental Civics Teacher,” that “the media relies on his brand of hyperbole to have any sort of public policy debate.”
Krosnick goes on to argue that enough voters care very deeply about global warming that this could be a winning political issue for Obama — if the President chooses to take it on:
Global warming could be an important issue in next year’s election, because some 15 percent of voters see it as their primary concern, said Krosnick, who is also a university fellow at the Resources for the Future think tank.
If President Barack Obama, a Democrat, can define himself as the environmental candidate, he could have a large advantage over a Republican, Krosnick said. If however, a Republican softens his or her stance on climate and Obama, who has failed to pass a climate bill in his first term, moves more to the center, it may not be a factor in the election.
Considerable polling research by Krosnick and others support that view. Krosnick has shown that Democrats could use this as a wedge issue since it does split Republican from independents. A recent study of his found:
“Political candidates get more votes by taking a “green” position on climate change – acknowledging that global warming is occurring, recognizing that human activities are at least partially to blame and advocating the need for action – according to a June 2011 study by researchers at Stanford University.”
Public opinion expert Edward Maibach of George Mason University made a similar point in his Climate Progress post, “Polling Expert: Is Obama’s Reluctance to Mention Climate Change Motivated by a False Assumption About Public Opinion?” — a piece that also contains links to a dozen different polls coming to the same conclusion.
Yes, I know, for Obama to define himself as an environmental candidate he would actually have to consistently do things that benefit the environment, which is to say benefit human beings with cleaner air and clean water and a livable climate, things like, oh, I don’t know, taking action to reduce ozone smog…..
Here are more results from the Reuters/Ipsos/Stanford poll:
- The percentage of Americans who are certain that warming has been happening has also climbed, from 45% to 53%.
- However, those who do not believe in global warming have become more resolute in their attitude….
- A large majority (71%) believe that if warming has been happening, it has been caused either partly (45%) or mostly (27%) by things people have been doing. 27% believe warming to be the result of natural causes.
- Looking forward, a large majority of Americans (72%) expect the world’s temperature to continue rising over the next 100 years if nothing is done to prevent it. Here too, Democrats are much more likely to believe in global warming’s continued impact (88%) compared to Republicans (57%) or Tea Party members (49%)
Finally, the issue of global warming is important to a large fraction of Americans:
- Gallup poll: Public understanding of global warming gains, while most Republicans remain misinformed