What do Americans think about global warming?

What do Americans think about politics and global warming? In the last blog we looked at the Damascene conversion of Republican pollster, Frank Luntz, and his advice on how global warming should be framed and what language should be used to persuade voters on climate change issues.

Now the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University has released its latest national survey on politics and global warming – undertaken in April-May just before Supreme Court rulings on abortion, guns and the EPA; the latest in the endemic US mass shootings; and the January 6 committee hearings.

The bad news is that support for climate and clean energy policies has softened since their last study in September last year. The good news is that they also find that many registered voters say that climate change will be an important issue in the forthcoming congressional elections.

They find that four in ten registered voters say a candidate’s position on global warming will be “very important” to their vote. The split between Democrats and Republicans was significant. Among liberal Democrats global warming was ranked third out of 29 issues after environmental protection and health care. Moderate and conservative Democrats rated it in 16th place while moderate Republicans rated it 28th and conservative Republicans rated it dead last out of the 29 – presumably being nowhere near as important as abortion, critical race theory and overturning the 2020 election.

Nevertheless, a majority (58%) of registered voters would prefer to vote for a candidate who supported global warming action while only 17% would prefer to vote for a candidate opposing action.

Looking at all registered voters half say global warming should be a high or very high priority for the president and Congress while 61% regard developing sources of clean energy should be a high priority.

Interestingly 58% would support a US president declaring global warming as a national emergency if Congress didn’t act.

There is greater than 70% support for policies to reduce the pollution that causes global warming including: tax incentives to make properties more energy efficient; more research into renewable energy; tax rebates for EVs and solar panels; making low income housing more energy efficient; and, providing support to homeowners, landlords and businesses that can be powered without burning fossil fuels.

Support above 60% is found for policies to transition the US economy from fossil fuels to 100% clean energy by 2050; funding for low income families adversely affected by air and water pollution; and, requiring fossil fuels companies to pay a tax on carbon pollution to reduce other taxes such as federal income tax.

There is also above 80% support for providing funding to help farmers improve practises and restore soil if it absorbs and stores more carbon; and, supporting jobs programs to hire unemployed oil, gas and coal workers to close down abandoned gas wells and old coal mines.

42% support a ban on TV ads by fossil fuel companies, similar to the 1971 ban on advertising cigarettes on TV. Whether either would survive the current Supreme Court is another question. It would also fare poorly in the sort of States which think it is appropriate to ban abortions for pregnant 10 year old victims of incest.

So who do Americans trust, blame and resent? Seven in 10 registered voters trust NASA, family and friends, climate scientists and their primary care doctor as global warming information sources. Developing countries cop the most blame for global warming closely followed by fossil fuel companies, industrialised countries, fossil fuel CEOs and corporate lobbyists.

There is only one percentage point difference between each group – in descending order from developing countries – suggesting the ‘Other’ looms larger than the prime suspects.

As for who might do something about it the research demonstrates another dimension of the deep US malaise. 14% think the US government is responding well to global warming; 16% think that people like them have a fair say in how the government responds to the issue; and, only 11% think that people like them are respected in the national conversation about global warming.

…..and that last finding makes a profound statement – both tragic and perceptive about the state of US society and its deeply flawed democracy.