Independents, Tea Party Split on Climate

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.

image via Eco Group

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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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.


  • Reply October 29, 2010

    Meme Mine

    For the last 24 years of crisis warnings, the IPCC climate scientists have continued their unified consensus that the consequence of Climate Change are still estimated to be anything from “catastrophic” and “unstoppable” warming, to negligible consequences if any, and may or may not include more extreme weather events. Meanwhile, the UN had allowed carbon trading to trump 3rd world fresh water relief, starvation rescue and 3rd world education for just over 24 years of climate control instead of population control.
    When dealing with deniers, you deal with conservative evil. That’s the whole point of climate change, to bring liberals together and defeat conservatism. Fighting evil means no rules and therefore justifies issuing CO2 death threats to billions of children all over the world. We must continue to demonize the non believing conservative deniers and fight for peace.

  • Reply October 30, 2010

    Neil Craig

    The claim of “scientific consensus” on catastrophic warming is, of course, a total & deliberate lie. The author should apologise for it.

    Alternately he should name 2 scientists, of the many millions not paid by government, who support it. Note that so far nobody, out of 10s of thousands of alarmists asdked, have been able to do so.

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