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PPIC Survey: Partisanship Distorts GOP Perceptions

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

polarbearoniceAs world leaders, including California Gov. Jerry Brown, convene in Paris this week for talks on addressing global climate change, one of the more depressing facts that shapes the political landscape is how hyper-partisan perceptions about climate change have become.

Back in cooler times, in 2006 when California passed AB 32 – requiring the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — it was supported by 65% of all Californians, including 67% of Democrats, 65% of Republicans and 68% of independents, according to the July 2006 survey by the Public Policy Institute of California.

By July 2014 (after President Obama and Gov. Brown visibly supported action to address climate change) overall support for AB 32 was still strong at 68%. But while 81% of Democrats supported the law and 62% of independents still did, backing had dropped to a mere 39% among Republicans.

Today’s PPIC poll finds an even greater partisan divide on climate change, with 79% of Democrats agreeing that global climate change is a very serious problem, compared to 55% of independents and a paltry 21% of Republicans.

ostrich_head_in_sandReeps Take Ostrich Attitude: If you combine those who say climate change is very serious or somewhat serious, 94% of Democrats agree, as do 79% of independents compared to just 47% of Republicans. In fact a plurality of Republicans – 35% — say global climate is not a problem and 17% more say it’s “not too serious.” That’s a majority of Republicans – 52% — who pooh pooh the issue.

You might be tempted to explain the difference by looking at the contrast between Democrats and Republicans on how jobs will be affected by taking action to confront  climate change.

According to PPIC, 58% of Democrats say state action to reduce global warming will create more jobs and 11% say it will result in fewer jobs. By comparison, Republicans believe about 2-to-1 that California doing things to reduce global warming will result in fewer jobs (39%) compared to 21% who say it will create more jobs.

But that’s a reasonable debate over the effects of addressing the issue. What should not be in question is the existence of global climate change itself – a fact upon which scientists are almost unanimously agreed.

Democrats, it seems, are relying on Actual Facts to shape their perception of reality while Republicans are relying on Magical Thinking. Or else, Republicans’ perceptions of reality have been so poisoned by partisanship, they cannot recognize what’s happening right before their noses.

Our friend, Mark Baldassare, the level-headed director of the PPIC poll, believes the partisan differences in perceptions about reality itself are a reflection, in large part, of the sources of information people rely on for information. “Different groups are hearing different parts of the argument,” he said, agreeing “for sure” that perceptions of reality are dramatically affected by partisanship.

climatechangescienceScience Agrees: For example, he said, check out the recent ABC-Washington Post survey that asked the question: “Do you think most scientists agree with one another about whether or not global warming is happening or do you think there is a lot of disagreement among scientists on this issue?”

While a majority of Democrats say there is scientific agreement – which, as it happens, there is – it was just 57-37% even among Democrats. Among Republicans, 68% said there’s a lot of disagreement and just 28% said most scientists agree.

According to Baldassare, opinions about Obama and the Affordable Care Act track closely with opinions about the actual threat of global climate change – all shaped by partisan attitudes and sources of information people rely on.

There’s much more in the new PPIC poll, on issues and political leaders. Again, it can be found here.

PPIC surveyed 1,703 California adult residents, including 1,020 on landlines and 683 on cell phones, November 8–17, 2015. The sampling error is ±3.7 percent at the 95 percent confidence level for the total unweighted sample of adults. The sampling error for unweighted subgroups is larger: for the 1,409 registered voters, the sampling error is ±4.0 percent; for the 1,115 likely voters, it is ±4.4 percent.