By Stephanie Zhu
Republicans are becoming more convinced of climate change. While many Democrats are already on board with the scope and urgency of this problem, the shifting tides of Republicans opinions means climate change is becoming a less partisan, polarized issue. The further we get from extremes and polarization, the more progress we can make.
More belief, more concern
A recent public opinion poll from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, conducted in March and released in May, reveals that Republican voters are 4% more convinced that global warming is happening than they were in fall of 2017. Digging further, the poll revealed that belief in human-caused global warming has increased 9% since last fall. Republican voters’ concern about global warming has also increased 5 percentage points in that same time period.
Their belief and concern translates into more support for action. Poll numbers on more specific actions include a 9 point increase in Republican support for strict carbon dioxide limits on coal-fueled power plants and a 7 point increase in support for requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a revenue-neutral carbon tax.
Other climate change combatting efforts that receive support from all parties include funding more research on renewable energy with 87% overall support, with a breakdown of 94% Democrat, 83% Independent, and 79% Republican. Generating renewable energy on public land received 86% overall support, providing tax rebates to people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels received 85% overall support, and regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant with 81% received support. In some of these, Republican opinions have risen up to 8 points. Finally, more people across all parties support alternative energy sources, like solar (80%) and wind (73%).
These numbers show that the American people, including Republicans, are increasingly grasping the validity and gravity of climate change and its impacts.
Hope for the future
After a sharp decline following Donald Trump’s election, these rising poll numbers are indicative of greater change. Since last fall, Republican voters have seen climate impacts like strong hurricanes and severe flooding, out of control wildfires, rising heat, all of which could be impacting their belief in climate change. The first step is awareness, and the next step is action.
As CCL volunteers travel to Washington, D.C., in a few days for the 9th Annual Citizens’ Climate Conference and Lobby Day, they’ll have a chance to turn this new awareness into action. Some 1,200 volunteers will lobby on Capitol Hill on June 12 and may find a chance to share these public opinion numbers with their Republican members of Congress. When those members understand that Republican voters’ opinions on climate change are trending this way, they’ll be even more likely to support our Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal.
Stephanie Zhu joined CCL in February 2018 and is a volunteer in the San Francisco chapter.