In the past 14 months, concern about climate change among conservative Republicans — and among all voters — has hit its highest level ever.
A new survey published by the climate change communication programs at Yale and George Mason University (GMU) reports “an increase in Republican understanding of the reality of human-caused global warming, worry about the threat, and support for several climate policies over the past 14 months.”
What makes this so unusual is that in the months after President Donald Trump took office, GOP acceptance of climate science dropped. Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale program, explained that social science research has found that “the views espoused by political leaders can influence the views of their followers.”
Leiserowitz said that this original drop “may thus have been driven in part by a Trump Effect” whereby his claims that climate change is a hoax, his efforts to block U.S. climate action, and his announcement that he will abandon the Paris Climate Agreement “likely had an effect on his fellow Republicans.”
But in 2018, even though Trump kept denying and downplaying global warming concern, Republican worries about climate jumped back up.
For instance, 70 percent of liberal and moderate Republicans said they understood that global warming was occurring, a 7-point jump from 2017. And while only 32 percent of conservative Republicans are concerned about climate change, that still represents a 9-point jump from 2017 levels — and the highest percentage of concern since Yale-GMU began polling in 2008.
“These results suggest that the Trump Effect has worn off,” said Leiserowitz, “and that Republicans (liberal, moderate, and conservative) are re-engaging the issue.”
Indeed, when asked whether or not they would support a Green New Deal to “generate 100% of the nation’s electricity from clean renewable sources within the next 10 years, Republicans across the political spectrum said “yes.”
The number of GOP climate science deniers in Congress has also dropped since so many lost election in the mid-terms last November. But the senior leadership of the party remains stuck in denial, suggesting a growing gap between Republican voters and their party’s leaders.
The Yale-GMU report does not offer an explanation for why Republican voters’ concerns about climate change has rebounded despite Trump’s ongoing denial.
But an Associated Press-NORC poll released last month found that 48 percent of those surveyed found the science of human-caused global warming more convincing than they did five years earlier — and extreme weather was the major driving force behind why.
Apparently the increasingly obvious reality of climate change — from more intense hurricanes and destructive wildfires — is proving more persuasive to many Republicans than the increasingly hard-to-believe, repeatedly debunked nonsense about winter storms disproving global warming coming from the party’s leader.