Not too long ago, the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication in association with George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication released the results of a survey of Americans’ opinions on global warming. The survey focuses on the breakdown of opinions by political affiliation. It divides the respondents into four categories: Democrat, Independent, Republican, and Tea Party. All respondents were first asked their party affiliation. Then they were asked whether or not they consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement, and those who said “yes” were classified as Tea Party members regardless of political party affiliation. Hence those classified Democrat, Independent, and Republican include only those who selected that political party affiliation and did not consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement.
The survey reveals a lot about the association of political beliefs and opinions on global warming. As expected, there are notable differences between Democrats and Republicans, with Democrats more likely to believe it’s really happening and that it’s caused by human activity. Independents generally fall between Democrats and Republicans on the spectrum of opinions (but not universally). But the most striking result of the survey is that Tea Party members have opinions which are far outside the range of beliefs expressed by others, drastically different even from those who consider themselves Republicans. Often, the difference between Tea Partyers and Republicans is vastly greater than the difference between Republicans and Democrats. Clearly the Tea Party members are “out there” — most certainly not in the mainstream, or even close.
This is well illustrated by responses to the question whether or not people need more information before making up their minds about global warming. More than half of Tea Partyers said they don’t need any more information:
It’s also striking, and frankly quite disturbing, that Tea Partyers consider themselves so much better informed on the issue than those of other political affiliations:
If we compute accumulated totals (the sum of all respondents who gave a given answer or any earlier answer), we see that full 85% of Tea Partyers consider themselves either “very well informed” or “fairly well informed” about global warming, whereas only about 65% of other party affiliates do so:
Before you begin to suspect that perhaps Tea Partyers are more scientifically savvy than others, consider that more than half of Tea Partyers “strongly disagree” with the statement that human beings evolved from earlier species:
Clearly Tea Party members are not more scientifically savvy than others, they are less so. So too are Republicans, although scientific ignorance doesn’t affect their views on global warming as much as it does that of Tea Partyers. But before you praise Democrats and Independents as scientifically enlightened, consider that a cumulative plot reveals that only about 60% of them agree with evolution, a not very flattering number although not as pathetic as the paltry 50% of Republicans and 33% of Tea Partyers:
In fact most Tea Partyers don’t even think global warming is happening:
Although over 70% of Democrats and Independents think global warming is happening, they may base that opinion on poor information. For instance, a cumulative plot shows that over three fourths of Democrats were strengthened in their belief by the recent record heat waves:
While the record heat waves are minor evidence, they’re not really very strong evidence — hardly enough, in my opinion, to justify strengthening one’s belief in a significant way. Yet they appear to have had a significant impact on the opinions of Democrats.
Very few Tea Partyers are aware that the vast majority of climate scientists believe global warming is happening. This is a question for which there is only one “right” answer — the first — and while only 18% of Democrats and Independents got it right, and a mere 10% of Republicans, only 1% of Tea Partyers know the truth of this matter:
Even among those Tea Partyers who do express belief, most think it’s not caused by human activity but is a natural phenomenon:
Yet another very disturbing result is that Tea Partyers have so little trust in anyone on the issue of global warming. In fact, they consistently trust all sources less than any other political affiliation. For example, only half of Tea Partyers express either “strong” or “somewhat” trust in scientists. The source most of them — barely over half — trust on global warming is NPS, the National Park Service! Less than half of Tea Partyers even trust NOAA about global warming.
A curious result is how much trust on global warming goes to CDC (Centers for Disease Control) from Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. I certainly trust them for medical information, but not for global warming info.
Far more discouraging is the low level of trust by Tea Partyers in EPA. I might share some of their distrust of MSM (mainstream media), but the Tea Party distrust of President Obama on global warming has a political, not a scientific, basis.