The New York Times recently reported that “skepticism and outright denial of global warming are among the articles of faith of the Tea Party movement.” But while denouncing the scientific consensus on climate change has helped candidates win Tea Party backing, a new survey suggests the strategy might not appeal to independent voters. In addition, the poll’s sponsor believes there’s evidence even Tea Partiers might not be completely closed-minded on some clean-energy questions.
The survey was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, a polling heavyweight that counts CNN among its clients, and sponsored by the Civil Society Institute, a Massachusetts-based think tank that has a record of backing renewables. It found that just 27 percent of Tea Party supporters “see global warming as a problem in need of a solution.” In contrast, 62 percent of independents supported the proposition. That put independent support for action on climate change about midway between Republican (39 percent) and Democratic (82 percent) support.
The partisan gap, however, shrunk when the pollsters shifted from broad questions about climate change to more specific ones that suggested a direct trade off between new energy sources and pollution. For instance, 81 percent of Democrats disagreed with the statement, “America should proceed first with developing energy sources even if they may have significant water pollution and water shortage downsides” — but so did 68 percent of Republicans. Even among Tea Party supporters, 60 percent chose clean, plentiful water over new energy.
Coming out for clean water might be akin to backing mom and apple pie, but Civil Society founder and president Pam Solo read a lot into results like that. Moving beyond “the old climate/clean energy debate,” she said, reveals that “initiatives that address concrete air and water harms that can be either averted now or avoided in the future would be embraced by a large majority without regard to political party.”
A recent survey sponsored by the National Resources Defense Council did find that in Congressional battleground districts, voters were more likely to support candidates who supported an energy bill intended to cut climate-change pollution. The Civil Society Institute-sponsored poll, conducted October 8-11, sampled 1,011 adults. The pollsters said the margin of error for the full sample was plus or minus 3 percent.
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