New Pew Center study finds global warming to be a mostly political issue

The public’s political views are strongly linked to attitudes on environmental issues

But political views are not a major factor on biomedical, food safety and space issues

July 1, 2015 (Washington) – Public attitudes about climate change and energy policy are strongly intertwined with political party affiliation and ideology. But politics play a more modest, or even peripheral, role on public views about other key issues related to biomedical science, food safety and space, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.

The chart below highlights the wide mix of factors tied to public attitudes across a broad set of 22 science issues. It illustrates the strength of connection between political affiliation and opinion, and it shows issues for which other factors – such as educational attainment, knowledge about science, religious affiliation or demographic characteristics – are strongly tied to the public’s views.

PI_2015-07-01_science-and-politics_0-01[1]“In this politically polarized culture, there is a strong temptation to think that people’s partisan connections and their ideology dominate their thinking about every civic issue,” said Cary Funk, associate director for science research and lead author of the new Pew Research analysis. “What’s striking about these findings is that politics sometimes is at the center of the story about public attitudes and sometimes politics has very little to do with the way people think about science issues in the public arena. We find there are striking differences that center on age, educational attainment, gender, and race and ethnicity.”

The broad pattern is that climate and energy issues are highly politicized, whereas issues tied to biomedical science, food safety and space policy often are strongly tied to other, nonpolitical, factors. For example, 71% of Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party say the Earth is warming due to human activity, compared with 27% of their Republican counterparts (a difference of 44 percentage points). The analysis uses statistical modeling that shows these differences hold, even when taking into account the differing characteristics of Democrats and Republicans, such as their different age and racial profiles.

There are a host of other science issues for which political factors either share influence with other traits or simply don’t matter. For example, party and ideology are among several factors that influence public views about human evolution. Those other independent predictors of people’s views include religious affiliation, age, level of education, specific science knowledge and gender. Furthermore, there are no differences between the major political party affiliation groups on views about the use of animals in research, the safety of eating genetically modified (GM) foods and whether to allow access to experimental drug treatments before those treatments have been shown to be safe and effective.

Among other major findings:

There are large and persistent gaps tied to generational differences on climate and energy issues and occasionally on other topics, such as views about childhood vaccines.

There are substantial differences between younger and older Americans that are independent of their political beliefs, education levels or other factors.

  • Seniors (31%) are less likely than those under age 30 (60%) to say the Earth is warming due to human activity, and are less inclined to favor stricter power plant emission limits in order to address climate change. Older adults also express more support for offshore oil drilling, and they are more likely to prioritize fossil fuel development over alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power.
  • 37% of adults under age 50 say parents should be able to decide not to vaccinate their children, compared with 22% of those ages 50 and older.
  • When it comes to the idea of changing a baby’s genetic characteristics in order to reduce the risk of serious diseases, older adults are more likely than younger ones to say this would be taking medical advances too far (56% among those ages 65 and older compared with 42% among those ages 18 to 29).

PI_2015-07-01_science-and-politics_2-01[1]PI_2015-07-01_science-and-politics_2-02[1]Education is especially linked to public views about the use of animals in research, the safety of eating genetically modified foods and nuclear power.

One widely discussed idea is that educational and science knowledge differences play a central role in the public’s beliefs about science topics. On the science issues probed here, differences in views by education level are substantial on some topics. Specifically:

  • 67% of those with postgraduate degrees favor the use of animals in scientific research, compared with 40% of those with a high school diploma or less schooling.
  • A 57% majority of those with a postgraduate degree consider GM foods generally safe to eat. By contrast, 62% of those with a high school degree or less say that GM foods are generally unsafe.
  • 54% of those holding a postgraduate degree favor building more nuclear power plants. By comparison 43% of those with some college and 42% of those with a high school degree or less favor building more nuclear power plants.

The Pew Research survey included a set of six science knowledge questions in order to evaluate whether people who know more about science, regardless of how much formal schooling they have had, hold different attitudes about science topics. Those with more science knowledge are more likely than those with less knowledge to say eating GM foods and eating foods grown with pesticides are safe. Those with more science knowledge are especially likely to see bioengineered artificial organs for human transplant as an appropriate use of medical advances (85% compared with 65% of those with less science knowledge).

There are gender gaps on a number of science-related topics, including animal research, food safety, energy and space issues, even after controlling for political leanings and other factors.

For example:

  • A 60% majority of men favor the use of animals in scientific research, while a 62% majority of women are opposed.
  • A smaller share of women (28%) than men (47%) believe eating genetically modified foods is safe.
  • Six-in-ten men favor allowing more offshore drilling, compared with 44% of women.
  • Women (52%) are less inclined than are men (66%) to say astronauts are essential in the future of the U.S. space program.

Some science-related topics elicit wide differences of opinion across racial and ethnic groups.

For instance:

  • African Americans are less supportive than either whites or Hispanics of allowing access to experimental drug treatments before such treatments have been shown to be safe and effective.
  • Compared with either whites (36%) or Hispanics (34%), more African Americans (57%) take the view that the growing world population will not be a major problem because we will find ways to stretch our natural resources.
  • Seven-in-ten Hispanics say the Earth is warming mostly because of human activity, compared with 44% among non-Hispanic whites.

Differences in religious affiliation and worship service attendance are central to the public’s views on a handful of science topics; foremost among these are beliefs about human evolution. A follow-up report will go into more detail on religious groups’ views about all of these topics.

The analysis in this report relies primarily on data from a Pew Research Center survey of the general public, using a probability-based sample of the adult population by landline and cellular telephone Aug. 15-25, 2014, with a representative sample of 2,002 adults nationwide. The margin of sampling error for results based on all adults is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. This survey of the general public, along with a companion survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), was conducted by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with the AAAS.

###

These findings will be available at http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/07/01/americans-politics-and-science-issues/

The updated interactive will be available at: http://www.pewinternet.org/interactives/public-scientists-opinion-gap/

Advertisements

54 thoughts on “New Pew Center study finds global warming to be a mostly political issue

  1. Clarification:
    Global Warming is completely a political issue.
    The “A” in AGW is really for “Anthropomorphic”.
    The climate obsessed are projecting their concerns and extremist views on the climate and seeing what they deeply wish for in it.

  2. So in the US science knowledge does not strongly affect whether you think most of the warming is caused by man.
    My question is why would it affect the result at all? We just don’t know what the climate sensitivity is.
    Surely, those with least science knowledge would not be able to give a sure answer and those with most would be unable to provide an answer at all.
    So only those who’ve merely watched a documentary or been baffled by SkS (not Sceptical and not science) could be surveyed.

  3. This is more a taxation related issue. If GW would not be deemed as danger by science, politicians wouldn’t talk about limit/taxes, there would be no deniers.

  4. These polls are biased due to the preparer’s ignorance. For example, they only give the alternative that global warming we see at this time is all human caused, or all natural. But the evidence points towards a mix of the two. Polls like this are useless, and Pew really needs to get more educated so they know how to frame the darned questions.

    • For example, they only give the alternative that global warming we see at this time is all human caused, or all natural

      Read again, the option in the poll says “mostly due to human activity”.

      • Thanks Nylo, such a clear question range truly defines what constitutes an incredibly junk poll.

        ““mostly due to human activity.” or “mostly due to natural patterns.”

        Mostly is such a scientific definitive word.
        Useless question, badly crafted on purpose so the results can be misconstrued, no doubt. Typical PEW politicking poll.
        Just about as useful as trolls pretending to be interested readers and commenters.

  5. This is tricky. We’ve seen polls that show that people generally don’t think climate change is much of a problem, even if they think global warming is caused by humans.
    It is no surprise that old people don’t think the world is warming much. My mother remembers the dirty thirties and all the ups and downs between then and now.
    Cardinal Thomas Collins was interviewed on the radio this morning. The interviewer tried to make it all about global warming and Cardinal Collins had to keep pulling her back. According to the pope’s encyclical, global warming is one of many problems that beset the world and it’s by no means the most important.
    It seems to me that a large majority of people, the pope included, are lukewarmers. The Pew poll misses that nuance.

    • Call me a skeptic, but a number of those squares smell funny. I’m not convinced, for example, that the anti-GMO crowd is politically agnostic. I suspect a bad study all around that happens to be right some of the time by accident.

  6. For example, 71% of Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party say the Earth is warming due to human activity…

    I presume the above statement was also made by “Cary Funk, associate director for science research and lead author of the new Pew Research analysis.” You don’t need more than that one statement to spot his ‘leanings’. You can easily tell he’s heavy into the Kool-Aid. It’s funny how all of the “true believers” accept as fact that all skeptics are ignorant, uneducated and unwashed. And that we deny that the climate is changing the least little bit, and that man has even the slightest influence.

    • By ‘non acceptance’ I assume you mean non-Belief. As for CAGW being a “new paradigm”, please. It’s a giant bandwagon, or a memeplex if you will, currently in the process of toppling, since it isn’t based on much of anything except alarmist hype, pseudoscience, political pandering, grant-grubbing and hubris.

    • Unless people change their minds, icouldnthelpit, the way I did and the way your banal generational paradigm fails.
      I used to believe the AGW story. Until I got tired of all the rhetoric and decided to read the primary literature to find out for myself.
      It didn’t take that long to discover that the errors within climate models are orders of magnitude larger than the GHG effect they purportedly reveal. There’s no way cause can be assigned. But somehow, this obvious failure is invisible to climate modelers.
      After seeing those errors, I looked at the global air temperature record, and found that the claims of accuracy could not be sustained by the size of the systematic measurement errors. Thermometers in the field were not accurate enough to resolve the change in air temperature since 1900. But somehow, this obvious failure is invisible to the record compilers.
      And proxy paleo air temperature reconstructions have no knowable physical connection to actual paleo air temperatures.
      Read all about it, here.
      The entire AGW thingy is an object lesson in the sequelae of incompetence on a pandemic scale.

    • icouldnthelpit,
      You sound like the ne’er-do-well nephew waiting for the rich uncle to die.
      Funny that you invoke Planck’s non-peer-reviewed aphorism about science advancing one funeral at a time, ‘cos he’s gone and you’re still trotting out old paradigm truisms.
      I hope you do outlive your uncle long enough to receive your justly deserved inheritance and write a will for the generation following you.

    • My kids say that global warming is pitched at them 24/7 in the schools. Since most of them get academic information mostly from their teachers, what do you expect them to think?
      By the way, the kids also believe the U.S. is an evil racist, society, and that the major events in our history are the Trail of Tears, Slavery, the subjugation of women, and black inventors. What else would they think, given the educational system?

    • “We have learned a lot from experience about how to handle some of the ways we fool ourselves. One example: Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It’s a little bit off because he had the incorrect value for the viscosity of air. It’s interesting to look at the history of measurements of the charge of an electron, after Millikan. If you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little bit bigger than Millikan’s, and the next one’s a little bit bigger than that, and the next one’s a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to a number which is higher.
      “Why didn’t they discover the new number was higher right away? It’s a thing that scientists are ashamed of–this history–because it’s apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was too high above Millikan’s, they thought something must be wrong–and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong. When they got a number close to Millikan’s value they didn’t look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that. We’ve learned those tricks nowadays, and now we don’t have that kind of a disease.”
      The disease of which Feynman spoke is still with us.

  7. This “research” is a waste of time.
    What if these “researchers” would spend a couple of days researching the feasibility of, for instance, using large-scale wind and/or solar to replace, say, a mere 10% of current fossil fuel-powered capacity. Then somehow induce the MSM to report the results to the country.
    In other words instead of researching what factors lead people to BELIEVE what they believe about prioritizing alternate energy sources over oil, gas, and coal, give them some hard facts about wind and solar so that we can stop wasting our time and money on developing these incredibly infeasible alternatives.

  8. I find the people that claim that there is a “mountain of scientific evidence” to support agw have no scientific understanding at all or simply can’t give any convincing evidence at all when asked let alone mountains of it. I know which race has the least common sense too and I’m not proud of it.

  9. I think this is among the few polls I have seen so far related to climate change that is properly designed and allows to conclude interesting things.

  10. I see that religion (or church attendance) has a medium connection to some environmental issues -power plant emissions, fracking and offshore drilling. Anyone with a link or idea of what direction that relationship goes in? it seems interesting that warming s not tied to religion while those are.

      • Not as much as you think. The oil industry is Louisiana on west. Most of the “deep south” doesn’t have any.

      • I accept your expertise on the USA. I’m a Brit.
        But I’m still surprised. Surely, the South (even where the oil industry is) is more devout than New England or Washington State?

      • Mostly what I hear for “sciency supporters” is that only religious nuts don’t care about the environment (ie. Jesus is coming before too long anyway, God has dominion that sort of thing.). Louisiana oil would strengthen the tie. Now the Pope has tied Catholicism to climate fear and perhaps other more liberal religions have pressed for stewardship or the like. My question is which one of those is dominating to give somewhat of a relationship for those measures.

  11. Bottom line …. only 46% of US adults believe global warming is mostly due to humans. Now, I wonder what percentage of those actually believe it will be a problem in the future.

  12. That evolution question is quite amazing:

    “Humans have evolved due to natural processes” (agree-disagree)

    Surely they can’t think that this question distinguishes between those who believe that evolution is touched or not touched by the hand of a creator. Since tomorrow is July 4th I will quote the entire opening sentence/paragraph of the Declaration of Independence [emphasis added]:

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

  13. Interesting.
    We’ve got political affiliation, age, gender, religiosity, race, ethnicity, educational level, science knowledge…
    Forgot one.
    How about mental disorders? As in liberalism….
    which is actually not very liberal in the classical sense.

  14. Did I read that right? Even with all the crazy anti nuke propaganda that a majority of college grads still think we should build more and that even a 42% of high school grads think we should also? How about we get on with it then!

  15. This makes sense since most of those who support the Democrats or the left, are emotional thinkers. They make decisions based on emotional reactions. If the government helps poor people by giving them more money, that makes one feel better, so that is what they support. And of course, if you are one of those that could benefit by receiving more services/money from the government, that tends to sway your support towards the left as well.
    Those that support the Republicans or the right are more evidence-based thinkers. What policies are more likely to result in a general improvement in the standard of living regardless of how that might make one feel. Providing too much money to the poor or taxing work too much results in disincentives for productive work and the standard of living declines. That is what the evidence says. Historically, that is what really happens. See the history of all far left wing governments/countries in history.
    Well, global warming sounds bad. It makes one feel bad. Any policies that might make one feel better about global warming is good if one is an emotional thinker. More money for renewables and for climate scientists might make one feel better.
    If you are an evidence-based thinker, one would say we should be sure there really is global warming because whatever we do about it is likely to have negative consequences for the standard of living, even for the poor.
    So that’s support for climate science. Does it make you feel bad, do you support doing something about it since it makes you feel better. Are you one of those who could benefit from more government support.
    Or do you like your evidence and facts first. Given there is science in the “climate science” profession, one can see it has become a “movement” based on emotional feelings rather than a true science which uses evidence as its most important principle.

  16. Engineering science proves CO2 has no significant effect on climate. The proof and identification of the two factors that do cause reported climate change are at http://agwunveiled.blogspot.com (now with 5-year running-average smoothing of measured average global temperature (AGT), the near-perfect explanation of AGT, R^2 = 0.97+ since before 1900).
    The ongoing average global temperature trend is down. Monthly reported temperatures are being temporarily propped up by el Nino.

    • Thanks Dan – just read your paper and sent you an email.
      BTW – assume you are American – Happy Glorious 4th, and congrats on the 5-2 soccer win.
      Best, Allan

  17. “Seniors (31%) are less likely than those under age 30 (60%) to say the Earth is warming due to human activity, and are less inclined to favor stricter power plant emission limits in order to address climate change.”
    Maybe because it’s harder to snow somebody who’s been around over a half a century that things are hotter than they were? It’s supposed to work the other way; the old people tell the gullible kids about walking barefoot through the snow in May to school.

  18. What it all boils down to is this: Do you think government is your mommy and daddy or do you think government is subordinate to your individual choices.

  19. The problem with all these multichoice surveys is if you understand the subject, then you know that none of the answers they offer are literally correct.
    eg: ‘What is two plus two?’ Options: Yes/No
    – Eh! How the hell do I answer that?

  20. Women (52%) are less inclined than are men (66%) to say astronauts are essential in the future of the U.S. space program.

    I don’t know how you can even have a “space program” without astronauts. You at least need robotic astronauts. Half of women and a third of men don’t want NASA to only research climate change and be involved in Muslim outreach, do they?

    Seven-in-ten Hispanics say the Earth is warming mostly because of human activity, compared with 44% among non-Hispanic whites.

    I wonder if they understood what was meant by “human activity.” It always feels warmer when you’re working outside. And outside labor is a type of human activity, isn’t it?

  21. On the question about warming, some have commented about age of the person influencing the response. This would make sense, seniors have experienced and remember more hot or cold events.
    But I would think two major variables would be, since this is a USA survey, where does the person resides would be one variable of importance. For example, the NE has just experienced two very cold winters while the SW experienced two quite warm winters at the same time. For the MW it was about “average”, according to a map I saw at a NOAA site on how temperature varied for these regions the past two years.
    The combination of age/residence/and the year when the question was asked, it would seem would influence how a person would answer.
    The other major variable I would think would be of importance is where you work. I would like to compare a survey of people who work outside and for whom the temperature (or weather) is extremely important: farmers, fishermen, foresters, construction workers, landscapers, etc. vs. workers in offices with heating and air conditioning.
    Don’t we answer survey questions more from our experience and how we were affected by a particular issue or event, more than from party, religion, gender, etc. This is not true for all questions, but when it comes to weather we all experience it and some with outside work much more than others.

  22. I see one of the categories used to poll views was “gender”. I realize I’m fighting a lost cause, but I HATE the inappropriate use of “gender” when the perfectly legitimate word “sex” should be used.
    I took German in school. In that language, all nouns have a gender.
    “Der” (pronounced dare) is masculine. For example the man- der Mann, the father-der Vater, but also
    der Computer, der Oktober, der Motor also have masculine gender.
    “Die (pronounced dee) is feminine, die Frau- the woman, but also “die Bucherei”- the library is feminine.
    “Das” is neuter, “das Gold”, “das Nickel”, but also “das Maschen”- the young girl..
    American English has fortunately let all the ‘geder” words die. We use “The” for everything .
    When I see or hear the word “gender” used, I think back to my school German-
    She- the woman, He, the man, It- the young girl. I put them all together and think using the inappropriate word “gender” when “sex”- male or female should be used is a bunch of
    Die/.Der/Das, or in English Sh/He/It.

  23. Keep it simple. Only 33% of American adults believe the man made global warming narrative. Despite billions spent and years trying with every advantage possible. Only 33%. Drive that point home. Without fear. Without hesitation.

    • Ah yes, a sloppy confirmation bias poll by a concerned activist group; ‘Yale Project on Climate Change Communication”.
      Such relevance and so comforting to the devoted acolytes of CAGW.
      Joel D Jackson, why aren’t you publishing links to more measured polls; e.g. “Priorities for Congress, September 2014”
      For registered voters, ‘climate change’ ranks dead last out of thirteen topics.
      Only 17% of voters thought ‘climate change’ as ‘Extremely Important’. Add in the voters who thought ‘climate change’ as ‘Very Important’ and that number only reaches 40%.
      Or, if you prefer a more current poll, there is the “Economy Trumps Foreign Affairs as Key 2016 Election Issue”.
      By design or more likely due to lack of serious interest, ‘climate change’ isn’t included as an important issue facing America. Instead they stopped at immigration which had a ‘Extremely Important’ rating of 25%, and a combined extremely and very important rating of 59%
      In spite of what Yale students believe is the cause, climate change aka global warming, climate disruption or whatever flavor of the week Alarmists believe in, just doesn’t rate importance!

  24. Years ago a friend would occasionally toss the comment “I blame global warming” into conversations at utterly inane, off-topic moments. What was really surprising was the emphatic agreement he received from apparently sane people.
    George Carlin explained the fervent belief of imbeciles to unproven hypos like catastrophic humanmade global warming when he said:
    “ You know how stupid the average person is, right? Well half of them are stupider than that. ”
    See also: George Carlin – Saving the Planet:

    Regards to all, Allan 🙂

  25. So how did they determine how knowledgeable a person was about science? They asked 6 scientific questions. One so called scientific questions was “name the gas most scientists believe cause temperatures in the atmosphere to rise.” Well heck that isn’t a scientific question at all. It is a question about what one believes the opinions of scientists are. As far I know there hasn’t been a survey of all the world’s scientists about this question, and the few surveys that attempt answer similar question were deeply flawed. But people who answered CO2 were more likely to be put in the more knowledgeable about science category, and then they were asked if they thought that global warming was mainly caused by humans. Well, if you define more knowledgeable in by if you think most scientists think CO2 causes warming, then of course more knowledge people will say it is human caused. But judge people’s scientific knowledge in a different way say by replacing that question with “what causes seasons? ” The correlation between knowledge and believing humans cause global warming is likely to be smaller.

  26. Pew’s poll as well as all of the other MSM polls out there on this issue are not honest samples of real opinion, they are naked attempts to sway opinion. Very few of these polls impress me; all they do is show more than ever the need for people to visit sites like this one and read up on their own about the issue of climate change. Of course, that is complicated for most Americans. But in the end, the need to be self-informed is the most important.

  27. Quiz: The surveys of Americans wanting to stay out of the war said what in 1941 prior to December?

Comments are closed.