Poll: GOP voters divided as belief in global warming ticks up

The percentage of Americans that believe in global warming is ticking upwards after dropping for several years, according to a newly released poll.
The Pew Research Center survey also reveals a growing divide between centrist and conservative Republicans on the matter.

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Overall, the survey conducted in mid-November finds that 63 percent of Americans believe there is solid evidence of global warming, an increase from 59 percent in 2010 and 57 percent in 2009.

But it remains well below the 77 percent levels in 2006-2007 Pew polls (it was 71 percent in 2008).

The survey finds that 38 percent believe human activities are responsible for global warming, which is above the 34 percent in last year’s survey but below the 47 percent in 2006-2008.

The percentage of people who call global warming a “very serious” problem is also creeping upward.

It’s 38 percent in the latest poll, which is above the 32 percent last year but below the 43-45 percent level in 2006-2008.

The poll shows that the partisan split on climate change remains stark: 77 percent of Democrats polled see solid evidence of global warming, compared to 43 percent of Republicans. The levels were 91 percent and 59 percent, respectively, in 2006.

But Pew’s survey also finds an increasing split within the GOP ranks as more liberal and centrist Republicans are saying they believe in global warming. Belief among Independents is also ticking upwards but remains below 2008 levels.

From their report released Thursday:

Currently, 63% of independents say there is solid evidence of rising temperatures, up from 53% in October 2009. The shift has been more dramatic among moderate and liberal Republicans, who comprise about a third of all Republicans. More than six-in-ten (63%) now see solid evidence of global warming, compared with 41% two years ago.

Opinions among conservative Republicans have changed little since 2009; currently, just 31% say there is solid evidence the earth is warming. The gap between conservative Republicans and the party’s moderates and liberals has increased from nine percentage points in 2009 to 32 points in the new survey.

The whole report, which also probes Tea Party attitudes, is available here. It’s based on phone interviews of 2,001 adults conducted Nov. 9-14. It has an overall margin of error of 3 percent, while the margin for the GOP sample is 5.5 percent.

The substantial public doubts about global warming that the poll reveals are at odds with the scientific community. The dominant view among scientists is that the planet is warming and human activities — notably the burning of coal and oil — are a major reason why.

The National Research Council, in a report this year, noted that climate change is “very likely caused primarily” by human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2009, 18 scientific groups — including the American Meteorological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science — issued a joint statement on the matter. They said that greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the “primary driver” of climate change.

The report comes as climate change legislation remains moribund on Capitol Hill.

The Environmental Protection Agency is planning to craft greenhouse gas rules for power plants and refineries, but Capitol Hill Republicans are seeking to scuttle the regulations.