Though Republican party leaders are often known for being dismissive or skeptical of climate science, a new survey has found Republican voters don’t necessarily share their leaders’ views on climate and energy.
The survey, conducted by George Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication, polled Republican and Republican-leaning independents and found the majority of respondents accept climate change is happening — a step some influential Republicans have yet to take — and 62 percent of those think the U.S. should take steps to address the problem.
Here’s what else the survey found:
- Republican voters support clean energy: 77 percent of respondents said they want America to use more renewable energy, and a large majority of them want the switch to happen immediately.
- They believe the benefits of clean energy outweigh the costs: achieving energy independence and saving resources for future generations were more important to a majority of respondents than the increased government regulation and free market interference that the survey cited as potential costs of a major change in energy sources. This is at odds with Republican leaders’ recent stances on renewable energy: during the 2012 election, presidential candidate Mitt Romney condemned the Obama Administration’s “war on coal,” and several Republicans in congress have opposed government funding for clean energy.
- Only about one-third of the respondents agree with the Republican party’s stance on climate change, a platform that in 2012 made no direct mention of climate change and lauded the economic value of coal and the benefits of the Keystone XL pipeline.
As scientific evidence of climate change’s immediate and future impacts has only grown over the years, many Republican leaders have become increasingly hostile toward clean energy initiatives and blind to the threats of climate change. The language of the 2012 Republican platform, for instance, was a far cry from the party’s 2008 platform, which acknowledged that human activity was increasing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and reasoned that the “common sense” approach to the issue would be to take “measured and reasonable steps today to reduce any impact on the environment.”
But as the George Mason study demonstrates, public opinion hasn’t followed the party’s lead. A recent Stanford University poll found that 82 percent accept that the earth is warming, and 73 percent believe climate change-induced sea level rise poses a threat to the U.S. And a Pew poll released today found 65 percent of Americans think climate change is a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem. The Republican party has been said to be out of touch with voters on issues such as immigration and marriage equality — perhaps increasing public consensus can help the party evolve on climate change as well.