A new poll conducted at the end of September, just weeks after Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina, found that 60 percent of voters in the state are worried about climate change and many want officials to do something about it.
The survey was conducted by Nexus Polling, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. It asked 734 registered voters between September 28 and October 1, among other questions, whether they thought elected officials should be doing more to address extreme weather events.
With climate change, hurricanes are becoming more intense, slower, and wetter. That trend was evident when Florence hit the Carolinas last month and became the second wettest storm the U.S. has experienced in 70s years. (The wettest storm was last year’s Hurricane Harvey.)
In response to the survey, 42 percent of registered Republicans said elected officials should do more to address these types of extreme weather events while 72 percent of registered Democrats said more needs to be done.
While roughly half of all respondents said North Carolina’s Gov. Roy Cooper (D) responded well to Hurricane Florence, the opinion was more divided on President Donald Trump; just 7 percent of Democrats said Trump did a “very good” job, compared to 52 percent of Republicans.
And on the question of whether they thought climate change had an effect on the severity of Hurricane Florence, Republican voters were split — 39 percent said it had “some” or a “large” effect while 41 percent said it did not. Democrats were more decided, with 80 percent saying climate had some influence on the storm.
When it comes to whether the media should discuss the connection between climate change and extreme weather such as hurricanes or wildfires, three quarters of Democrats say the media should talk about it while the event is happening, or wait just one or two days before doing so (rather than a week or more). Roughly a third of Republicans feel the same.
“Contrary to arguments made by some politicians that it’s ‘too soon’ to talk about the links between climate change and extreme weather during or immediately after a disaster, this study finds that most North Carolina voters want the media to talk about these connections in real time,” Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, said in a statement.
A recent report by Media Matters, however, notes that the majority of mainstream media outlets largely failed to make the connection between climate change and more intense storms like Florence.
ABC, for instance, failed to air a single segment that mentioned the connection between climate change and hurricanes like Florence, while NBC had just one segment and CBS had two.
And as other news reports have noted, many of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Florence were counties that voted in majority for Trump during the 2016 election.
But the study’s authors remain hopeful that Florence may influence voters during November’s midterm elections.
“The devastation from Hurricane Florence will likely lead many North Carolinians to consider what actions they, their community, and their state should be taking to protect residents from the harms of climate change in the future,” Dr. Ed Maibach, director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, said in a statement.