Public Increasingly Believes In Climate Change, But Trump Voters Less Likely to Heed Warnings

Graphic: Annabel Driussi for Our Daily Planet

The Yale Climate Communications has released its latest Climate Survey maps and the results show that now the overwhelming majority — 72% of Americans across the country believe climate change is happening and 64% believe that it is affecting the weather.  The numbers are as high or higher in terms of support for funding for renewable energy research — 86% support it, and 75% support regulating CO2 emissions, and 68% support strict emissions limits on coal power plants. In addition, only 25% of the public hears about climate change in the media on a weekly basis.   On the other hand, a study in the journal Science Advances this week also shows, alarmingly, that “likely Trump-voting Florida residents were 10 to 11 percentage points less likely to evacuate Hurricane Irma than Clinton voters (34% versus 45%), a gap not present in prior hurricanes.” 

Why This Matters:  The number of Americans who believe in climate change is increasing so there is less reason for partisan division about combatting it.  But, the study shows that Trump voters are less likely to heed warnings and believe weather forecasts is also a warning that politicizing climate-driven weather emergencies is literally playing with fire.  In Oregon, according to Axios, some people in Oregon are resisting evacuations from the state’s wildfires in part because of baseless rumors about left-wing activists looting vacant homes.

Claims of Climate Hype 

Axios reported that the researchers from UCLA “examined evacuation patterns” for Hurricane Irma “using GPS phone location data from each affected voting precinct, which allowed them to compare the behaviors of likely Clinton and Trump voters living as closely as 500 ft. apart.”  So the data was quite detailed.  Apparently, according to the researchers, a few days before the storm’s arrival conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh blamed government officials and the media for “overhyping the hurricane” to “advance this climate change agenda.”  When they compared the same people’s behavior during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 and Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, there was not the same partisan gap in evacuation behavior.  The researchers believe the partisan gap that was seen in Irma “was due at least in part to conservative media pushing hurricane skepticism before the storm hit, casting doubt on official predictions of its severity and the need to evacuate,” according to Axios.   Axios further explained that the researchers found that while such “‘hurricane trutherism’ existed in pockets before Irma, the researchers noted an unprecedented spike in Google searches for skeptic content in the days leading up to Irma.”  In case you wondered, Irma was one of the most expensive storm’s in Florida’s history, and it caused 123 deaths.

Interesting Yale Climate Data

  • 65% believe we should require utilities to produce 20% of their energy from renewable sources
  • 82% believe that the government should provide tax rebates for people using solar panels or driving fuel-efficient vehicles
  • 78% believe that schools should teach about global warming
  • 56% say that a candidate’s views on global warming are an important factor in their vote

To Go Deeper:  Check out the Yale maps that break the data down by counties, metro areas, and Congressional districts.

H/T to Yale Forward candidate Maggie Thomas ENV ’15 who last week achieved the 4400 signatures she needed to appear on the ballot of the 2021 Yale Corporation election.  Go Maggie — and all you Yale Friends of the Planet, be sure to vote for her!

Yale Climate Opinion Map September 2, 2020

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