Trump May Be Making Republicans Increasingly Doubt Global Warming

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign town hall at Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Fla. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/EVAN VUCCI
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign town hall at Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Fla. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/EVAN VUCCI

Twice as many Republicans are unsure about the evidence of global warming as they were a year ago, and Donald Trump could be playing a role, finds a new survey led by University of Michigan researchers.

Some 26 percent of Republicans told researchers this spring they were unsure about global warming, up from 13 percent last year, according to the National Surveys on Energy and Environment (NSEE) report released Tuesday. Republicans are also more likely than Independent and Democrat voters to either doubt climate change or denying it altogether, according to the survey.

It Snowed Once And Other Things Donald Trump Thinks Prove Global Warming Is A HoaxIn a long speech in front of many American flags, billionaire Donald Trump announced Tuesday he was throwing his hat in the already-crowded ring…“Our survey indicates [Donald] Trump’s influence may have led to increased uncertainty among Republicans as opposed to a wholesale swing from believer to nonbeliever status,” said Sarah Mills, co-author and post-doctoral researcher at the Center for Local State and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan.

In an interview with ThinkProgress, Mills said that although the survey didn’t ask about the Republican presidential candidate, Trump’s stand on climate change — and his rise as a party leader and appeal among voters — seems to be “one of the key things that has happened” over the past year.

Donald Trump does not believe in climate change. In fact, for years he’s boasted that human-caused global warming is a hoax. He has even blamed China for the “concept of global warming,” and said cold days prove that global warming isn’t real. Both assertions are false.

But shifts in climate change beliefs are not unprecedented among Republicans, according to NSEE data. Through the winter of 2014, the percentage of Republicans who believed in global warming also dropped, falling from 55 percent in the fall of 2013 to 38 percent in the spring of 2014. Asked about the fluctuations, Mills said there is a sector of the public uncertain about their beliefs that is prone to veer.

“I think people are internalizing the messages they are hearing from party leaders,” she said.

Indeed, the “strongest predictors of [what] Americans think about climate change is their party affiliation,” said Mills. Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to deny climate change. According to the survey, 34 percent of Republicans says there is no evidence of global warming. Last year, 42 percent held those beliefs, according to NSEE.

As a whole, a record 15 percent of Americans said they don’t believe the planet is warming, down from 24 percent a year ago — the lowest that figure has been since Muhlenberg College and the University of Michigan first started collecting data for the NSEE reports in 2008. Moreover, the people who say they’re very confident that climate change lacks evidence has shrunk from 11 percent a year ago to 8 percent today. On the other hand, a record 71 percent of those who believe in climate change and nearly half — 46 percent — of all Americans said they are “very confident” there is evidence that global warming is happening.

CREDIT: National Surveys on Energy and Environment
CREDIT: National Surveys on Energy and Environment

While public opinion may show change over time, the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change is well established and widely undisputed. Just this year, an international research team from 16 universities — including Harvard and Princeton — confirmed that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that human-caused climate change is happening. Science has also grown in confidence on the effects that climate change has on droughts, storms, and sea level rise while reaching more sophisticated projections.

Scientists Are More Confident Than Ever In Troubling Sea Level Rise ProjectionsCharles Warsinke has a daunting and unusual task for a city planner; move a town out of the way of climate change…thinkprogress.orgIn addition, some 99 percent of U.S. weathercasters — those who communicate weather forecasts on TV or radio, but who aren’t always trained meteorologists — accept that climate change is real, according to a George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication study released in March.