Lots More Climate Coverage but … More Partisanship, Less Concern for Issue

All that media coverage of climate change/global warming over the past two years doesn’t appear to be having much influence on the minds of the nation’s electorate.

That’s the conclusion one can draw from a Pew Research Center for the People & The Press January 2008 public opinion survey.

Not only has the climate change issue fallen significantly as a priority among Republicans, but it has become increasingly partisan, the survey finds. Even a year ago, the climate change issue had ranked last among Republicans as a priority, with only 23 percent saying they thought it should be “a major priority.” Cut that in about half to arrive at the 12 percent of Republicans now wanting it to be a top priority, “making it by far their lowest-ranking issue.”

“Republicans’ concerns about global warming have fallen through the floor,” Pew said in a release.

Economic concerns and worries over the stock market and economy generally are seen by 76 percent of Republicans and Democrats, and 74 percent of independents, as the “top priority” concern. Those percentages have increased 11, 1, and 14 percent respectively among those groups over the past year.

Among Democrats surveyed, support for climate change as a top priority has fallen from 48 to 47 percent over the past year, and among independents from 40 to 38 percent. The 47 to 12 percent gap of 35 points separating Democrats and Republicans on the seriousness of the climate change issue is the second highest in the Pew survey. Only providing insurance to the uninsured – identified as a top priority by 65 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of Republicans – registered a larger gap, 38 points.

“Generally, even policy issues that are not seen a ‘top priority’ are rated as at least an ‘important but lower priority,’” Pew said in releasing the survey results. “Relatively few people say that any priority is ‘not too important’ or ‘should not be done.’”

But when it comes to climate change, “only about half of Republicans (51 percent) say that dealing with global warming is a top priority or an important but lower priority. Nearly as many (46 percent) say that addressing the issue is not too important or should not be done.”

According to the Pew study, 45 percent of those identified as conservative Republicans say the issue is either a top priority (8 percent) or an important but lower priority (37 percent). About 52 percent of conservative Republicans, “a slim majority,” say the issue is not too important (28 percent) or “should not be done at all” (24 percent).

Pointing to a study done in January 2007, a year ago, Pew said 54 percent of Republicans “agreed that there is solid evidence that average temperatures have been getting warmer over the past few decades.” That contrasts with 78 percent of moderate and liberal Republicans or independents on that point “and an even higher proportion of Democrats” saying Earth is getting warmer.

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