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

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).

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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.

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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”).

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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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