“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
—George Bernard Shaw
Most people would agree that elected officials should generally reflect their constituents because they represent them in government. So the Republican presidential candidates may want to remember that when they find out the results of a recent poll released last week that shows at least 70 percent of Americans now believe that global warming is real and supported by solid evidence. Why should the Republican candidates care? Because the survey found a dramatic decline in the last year alone in self-identified Republicans who doubt the existence of climate change, from 41 percent down to 26 percent.
According to Barry Rabe, professor of public policy and environmental policy at the University of Michigan, and a co-author of the poll:
The big shift here is amongst Republicans, and it is a huge one. Most survey work has found a gaping divide between self-identified Democrats and Republicans on this issue for many years now. This suggests that those differences still persist, but have declined significantly. We did not anticipate this.
This survey is conducted every spring and fall and found the highest number of believers occurred in 2008, but then those numbers started to drop until the last year. Rabe believes it’s due to the extreme weather Americans have been experiencing and those polled did admit that droughts in the country had a large effect on their attitude toward global warming. According to Rabe:
The drought issue is affecting big regions of the country. Drought is not just a narrow, localized issue now. A lot of people live in areas where there is some degree of drought. People are often responding to their perception of weather or weather experience. Rather than look at scientific journals or U.N. reports, they have a tendency to look at what last summer or winter was like. So the drought issue has gone up dramatically.
This is the first time in seven years that a majority of Republicans (55 percent) believe the evidence behind global warming, with only 16 percent of Republicans now doubting this evidence. Not surprisingly, strong majorities of Democrats (79 percent) and Independents (69 percent) continue to believe in the evidence of global warming.
One point that’s important to appreciate is that the survey only addresses the belief in global warming, not what causes it. So whether or not people believe that our activities such as the combustion of fossil fuels are responsible were not addressed. But this is an important baby step in the right direction for those who previously doubted everything about global warming and climate change. If they can be convinced of the evidence of a warming planet, perhaps they can also be convinced of the scientific explanations about why it’s warming.
But if the majority of Republicans now believe the planet is warming, people like Ted Cruz should stop talking about “the pause” as if it’s accepted by those he anticipates will be voting for him. They need to get on the ball on this one or risk finding themselves even more drastically distanced from their supporting base than they already have been. It’s time for the pendulum to swing back to a more moderate degree of Republican candidate than we’ve had in a long time. The voters are proving that.