The Slatest

New Poll: Republicans Believe in Global Warming, Think Government Should Take Action to Fight It

A solar power plant in Lancaster, California.

Nichola Groom/Reuters

A poll conducted by “the New York Times, Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future” finds that 54 percent of Republicans believe global warming is a “somewhat serious” or “very serious” problem for the United States—and that a majority of Republicans believe the government should limit greenhouse gas emissions and give tax breaks to companies that produce electricity from water, wind, and solar power.

A number of prominent Republicans—including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—answer questions about climate change by saying that they are not scientists and can’t evaluate claims about it. Potential 2016 presidential candidates including Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mitt Romney, and Bobby Jindal have said they don’t believe global warming is real or aren’t sure how much of it is caused by humans. (Chris Christie is an exception, sort of.) The alleged uncertainty on the issue is often given as a reason to avoid action. (Rubio: “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. And I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy.”) But when the Times poll asked respondents to say whether various statements made them more or less likely to vote for a candidate, more Republicans favored the statement that asserted climate change was real, mainly caused by humans, and required government action than favored statements describing it as a hoax or as a messy issue with potential to cause economic damage if addressed by the government. Here are the statements:

  • “When people ask me if I believe global warming has been happening, I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change, because I am not a scientist. When people ask me if I believe human activity causes global warming, I don’t know. There is significant scientific dispute about that. We can debate this forever. I am not qualified to make this decision. But I am astute enough to understand that every proposal to deal with climate change involves hurting our economy and killing American jobs.”
  • “The science on global warming is a hoax and is an attempt to perpetrate a fraud on the American people. I don’t buy into the whole man-caused global warming mantra. We must spend no effort to deal with something that is not a problem at all. We should not invest in windmills and solar panels as alternative energy sources. Instead we should continue to focus on our traditional sources of energy: coal, oil and natural gas. We should expand energy production in our country, including continuing to mine our coal and doing more drilling for oil here at home.”
  • “I believe that global warming has been happening for the past 100 years, mainly because we have been burning fossil fuels and putting out greenhouse gasses. Now is the time for us to be using new forms of energy that are made in America and will be renewable forever. We can manufacture better cars that use less gasoline and build better appliances that use less electricity. We need to transform the outdated ways of generating energy into new ones that create jobs and entire industries, and stop the damage we’ve been doing to the environment.”

48 percent of Republicans said the last statement would make them more likely to vote for the candidate who gave it, compared with 37 percent for the first statement and 24 percent for the second.