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Koch-Fueled Denial Backfires: Independents, Other Republicans Split With Tea-Party Extremists on Global Warming

By Joe Romm on December 2, 2011 at 3:40 pm

"Koch-Fueled Denial Backfires: Independents, Other Republicans Split With Tea-Party Extremists on Global Warming"

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Back in September, Reuters reported:

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.

Now a new Pew poll provides further support for that finding.

From 2009 to 2011, the percentage of moderate or liberal Republicans who say there is “solid evidence” the earth is warming jumped 22 percentage points, from 41% to 63% — 15 percentage points just since last year (from 48 to 63).

It is only the extremists aligned with the Tea Party crowd who are in extreme denial and haven’t budged in their views.  No doubt that is because they get so much of their news from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and other media outlets that spread the disinformation developed and pushed by the Koch brothers and their fellow pollutocrats.

From 2009 to 2011, the percentage of independents who say there is “solid evidence” the earth is warming jumped 10 percentage points, from 56% to 63% (7 points in the last year).

Pew reports, “A majority of Americans (65%) say that global warming is either a very serious (38%) or somewhat serious (27%) problem.” Interestingly, that 38%  figure is quite close to the Pew’s June 2006 poll, which found 41% of  Americans say global warming is a very serious problem.

Since last year’s Pew poll, the percentage of independents who say global warming is a “very serious problem” jumped 9 points — from 30% to 39%.

As Climate Progress has noted, on the “solid evidence” question, Pew has questionable wording (see “Experts Debunk Polls that Claim Sharp Drop in Number of Americans Who Believe in Global Warming“).  The specific question Pew asks is:

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From what you’ve read and heard, is there solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades, or not?

And that does shift the respondent’s point of view from simply what they believe or think toward what they’ve read or heard. Two leading experts, Jon Krosnick and Max Boykoff, both make a strong case that this rather fatally taints the whole question, especially since media coverage — which represents much if not most of what the public reads or hears on climate change — collapsed in 2010.

But the response to this question does suggest that a fair number of independents and non-conservative Republicans have seen or heard solid evidence the earth is warming in the past year.

And there has been a fair amount of media blowback from Rick 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.

The UK Guardian has a good piece on the new poll, “Changing climate of Republican opinion doesn’t agree with Tea Party,” which points out:

The shift suggests that the Koch efforts to spread doubt about climate science may be backfiring.

Climate change doubt – seen by Tea Party activists as a litmus test of conservative credentials – is not, as it turns out, energising the Republican masses.

It’s dividing them, alienating from the Tea Party wing those more moderate Republicans who account for about a third of the party’s supporters.

“The gap between conservative Republicans and the party’s moderates and liberals has increased from nine percentage points in 2009 to 32 percentage points,” Pew said.

That raises an interesting question ahead of the 2012 elections: how much more political mileage is there in climate change doubt?

[Republicans] do not seem to have been able to spread the doubt much beyond their own hardcore constituency.

Of course, the Kochs succeeded in helping to create a climate that killed climate action, but at least it appears you can’t fool all the people all of the time, just those who watch Fox News (see “Fox News Viewers are the Most Misinformed: A Seventh Study Arrives to Prove It“).

Krosnick told me last month that there’s no sign of shrinkage of the “issue public” — the 15% or so of the public that is highly concerned about climate change, that donates and votes based on the issue.

Krosnick has done a great deal of public opinion analysis in this area that shows ongoing, strong support for action on climate change among the public — see Bombshell: Democrats Taking “Green” Positions on Climate Change “Won Much More Often” Than Those Remaining Silent.  He analyzed the 2008 presidential election and the 2010 congressional election and explained in an email:

Our research suggests that it would be wise for the President and for all other elected officials who believe that climate change is a problem and merits government attention to say this publicly and vigorously, because most Americans share these views.  Expressing and pursuing green goals on climate change will gain votes on election day and seem likely to increase the President’s and the Congress’s approval ratings.

Sadly, team Obama — and a remarkable number of  progressives and pundits — have bought into the nonsensical and ultimately self-destructive view that climate change is not a winning issue politically (see “Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?).

In fact, it is increasingly becoming a classic wedge issue, one that splits the extremist base of the Republican party  from pretty much everyone else in the country.  Some day some smart politician will figure that out and run with it.

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21 Responses to Koch-Fueled Denial Backfires: Independents, Other Republicans Split With Tea-Party Extremists on Global Warming

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    The Pew poll reveals what some of us suspected: it’s less a matter of the Republican rank and file than party leadership in DC.

    GOP Congressmen are in thrall to the oil companies. Those who step out of line- like Lindsey Graham and John McCain- get bitch slapped into submission, and meekly announce that they no longer believe in either global warming or solutions to it. Romney is now on board, too, and Huntsman, the only Republican who says the obvious, is clearly a pariah, and a token candidate.

    This is strictly because of oil money delivered to campaign committees, not any wish to please the electorate. The result has been not only policy gridlock, but a global sense that the United States is now a tinpot democracy, not a real one.

  2. Raul M. says:

    Texas police cars should have 2 solar panels to power their AC units, most shoppers must have noticed the heat at the shopping mall parking lots. Solar powered AC for parked cars does make for a comforting concept.

  3. Wes Rolley says:

    Sounds like Huntsman is a follower of Henry Clay in that he’d “rather be right than President.”

    Once upon a time, the Republican Party had people like Pete McCloskey, Sherwood Boehlert, Lincoln Chaffee, leaders who fought for science and the environment… not any more. I wonder how the Republicans for Environmental Protection (http://www.repamerica.org/)can continue.

    I also wonder how much influence David Koch has on the PBS program NOVA, which he partially funds.

    • Colorado Bob says:

      WR -
      ” I also wonder how much influence David Koch has on the PBS program NOVA, which he partially funds. ”
      One of my sore spots, as a life long viewer of Nova, I can say that they sneak in a story once in a “Blue Moon”, about the climate.
      If the “KochHeads” knew how much evolution has been programed, their pointed little heads would explode.

      • SqueakyRat says:

        My guess is that the Kochs themselves don’t really give a damn about evolution vs. creationism, since it doesn’t impact their bottom line.

  4. I wonder how much opinion has been affected by the crazy weather we’ve been having the last couple of years.

    • Colorado Bob says:

      the crazy weather we’ve been having the last couple of years……….
      123 mph at Steamboat Springs, Colorado yesterday. That blew down a lot of “beetle – kill ” on the Northern West Slope.

  5. john atcheson says:

    One of the interesting phenomena in the last few years has been the fact that the link between political action and voter preferences has been severed. For example, over 78% of voters support raising taxes on the rich, but it doesn’t happen. A comfortable majority favor more stringent regulation on Wall Street than the anemic Dodd bill provided, yet it doesn’t happen. Nearly 70% favored single payer medical coverage and the majority supported universal health care coverage by government, yet it didn’t happen.

    Which suggests that polls don’t mean as much as they used to … money talks, and the people walk.

    • Joan Savage says:

      What a good point about the severed link.

      With candidates often preselected for us by moneyed interests, hope is faint for converting those elected to the cause of our majority interests.
      Too bad we seldom get referendums to address issues directly. None of this poll stuff, real referendums would be invaluable, particularly when opinion has gone way past a simple majority. If it only takes 60% for a super majority in the Senate, think what a referendum with a 70% majority would indicate!

  6. Toby says:

    Obama never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

    His Chief of Staff Daley seems to just a classic sh*tless Democrat who thinks if the party sounds a little bit more Republican, they can capture the Independents AND all the Democrats.

    He should listen to a real Democrat – Harry Truman “If you give the people a choice between a Republican and a Republican,
    they’ll pick the Republican every time.”

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      In Eastern Europe, after their ‘liberation’ to market fundamentalist capitalism, they soon coined the expression ‘democracy without choices’. In Australia there are slight variations between party policies, at the margin, over which the protagonists dispute viciously, ‘like bald men fighting over a comb’, but the core responsibilities, to serve the rich and obey our foreign ‘great and powerful friends’ is adhered to with religious devotion. The last Government to get ever so slightly out of line in regard to these two over-arching principles, the mildly social democratic Labor regime of Gough Whitlam (still the best we ever had) was ‘terminated with extreme prejudice’ in 1975, with Rupert Murdoch’s Evil Empire leading the hate campaign in the MSM. The more things change…

  7. Chas_raper says:

    The sad thing is, if you look at the Pew poll only 38% of people pooled believe the warming is due to human activity.
    Those are the numbers that need to rise for policies to change.

    • Susan says:

      This is exactly what I focused on when I was looking at the poll results. I am a science educator and recently was involved in an intense comment exchange on a listserv about climate change. It was frustrating to see science educators who either think the earth is warming but not due to human activity. Unfortunately there are those that still think that earth is cooling. Also those that think that students should hear the evidence about “both sides” of the issue and make up there own mind. Hopefully it wasn’t a representative sample. If it was it makes me very nervous.

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    The sample in this poll was over 2,000 people, for polling this is a big number to work with.

  9. John Tucker says:

    Public opinion is about to turn on that keystone pipeline too. It is looking like the Canadian Government covered up a outbreak of a disease associated with farmed salmon back in 2004 that has spread (probably helped along by climate change stress) throughout Canadian and Alaskan waters that is looking like a apocalypse for wild runs.

    Canad’s environmental standing (what was still left of it) is about to go down the tubes.

    Did Canada cover up deadly salmon virus? Report suggests yes ( http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2011/12/infectious-salmon-anemia-virus-salmon-report.html )

  10. “In fact, it is increasingly becoming a classic wedge issue, one that splits the extremist base of the Republican party from pretty much everyone else in the country.”

    Great point Joe. Also I think this is the missing wedge that Socolow and Pacala have been looking for. Once we get that one in place the rest will follow.

  11. prokaryotes says:

    Koch are 2 70 years + old brothers who represent the iodeas and values of a time which is no longer compatible with todays world.

    The father of the Koch Brothers is said to have made his fortune when dealing with Stalin back in the 1920′s.

  12. Chad says:

    I have to disagree with the cartoon, Joe. I believe David Frum when he says Republican plutocrats watch FOX just like the screaching Tea Partiers do, and have completely been infected by their own Kool-Aid.

  13. SqueakyRat says:

    It’s not terribly surprising that Dems who took “green” positions won more often than those who kept silent about it. The latter, I would guess, were running in more conservative districts than the former, so naturally they had a steeper path from the get-go. Unless the study took this into account, the result is not too interesting.