Pixel Tracker

Monday, March 18 , 2019, 9:58 am | Fair 59º


Republicans’ Opinions on Climate Change as Variable as Weather

New research shows Republicans have more varied opinions about climate change than their political leaders suggest

Climate change is not a partisan issue, and a UCSB researcher has the data to prove it.

Matto Mildenberger, an assistant professor of political science, led a new study, published in the journal Climatic Change, that finds substantial differences in the climate change views of both Republicans and Democrats across different states and congressional districts.

“While subsets of the Republican voting public do not support climate policies and hold views consistent with party elite, Republican climate and energy opinions are more varied than might be presumed from political discourse,” said Mildenberger.

Mildenberger conducted the research with colleagues at Yale University and Utah State University.

“Similarly, the results emphasize consistent support among Democrats for climate and energy policies, despite variation in belief intensity,” he said.

To carry out the study, the team combined information from state voter files with climate and energy opinions collected online between 2008 and 2016 by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication.

The data allowed them to estimate the geographic distribution of Republican and Democratic climate and energy opinions across the country.

As it turns out, the researchers discovered, substantial disagreement on climate exists between Republican elites and members of their party.

For example, many Republicans in Congress doubt whether climate change is happening, yet most Republican Party members in different states think global warming is indeed underway.

Those Republicans living in New York, Delaware and Alaska are particularly likely to do so. But only a quarter of Republicans in most states believe climate change is both happening and human-caused.

According to the study, the differences in climate opinions also translate into party members’ policy preferences. There is, for instance, majority Republican support for Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) policies in 111 congressional districts currently held by Republican members of Congress.

Similarly, a majority of Republicans in every state but Wyoming support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. And in particular, relative to the average national party member, Republicans in Southern Florida strongly support regulating carbon pollution.

The geography of partisan climate opinions in the U.S. highlighted in their study, the researchers say, should inform decision makers, educators and communicators working at sub-national scales.

Co-author Peter Howe, of Utah State University, said an understanding of how support for climate change and energy reforms differs at local scales is especially important given the current policymaking context.

Despite the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement in mid-2017, state and local governments continue to act as critical sites of climate and energy policymaking in the U.S.

“Accelerating state and local policymaking highlights the need for public opinion and policy preference data at these subnational spatial scales,” said Yale University co-author Jennifer Marlon.

Maps that visualize the Republican and Democratic distribution of climate beliefs are available at http://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/partisan-maps-.

— Shelly Leachman for UCSB.


Support Noozhawk Today!

Our professional journalists work tirelessly to report on local news so you can be more informed and engaged in your community. This quality, local reporting is free for you to read and share, but it's not free to produce.

You count on us to deliver timely, relevant local news, 24/7. Can we count on you to invest in our newsroom and help secure its future?

We provide special member benefits to show how much we appreciate your support.

I would like give...
Great! You're joining as a Red-Tailed Hawk!
  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.