Following Barack Obama’s re-election in the midst of soaring unemployment, ever-growing support for gay marriage, and the so-called "war on women," Republican politicians have been called "out of touch" on a variety of fronts. A new collaborative study from Yale and George Mason University shows that GOP leaders are also missing the mark with their constituents on climate change.
The participants were picked from a pool of respondents who had self-identified as "Republican" or "Republican-leaning Independent" on previous surveys. The majority agreed that climate change is happening and supported an American response, as 51% thought the United States should use less fossil fuels (defined as coal, oil, and natural gas), and 77% wanted to increase renewable energy (defined as solar, wind, and geothermal).
Staunch anti-environmentalism is a relatively new phenomenon for GOP leaders. Republican Theodore Roosevelt is known as the "conservation president," and once said, "In utilizing and conserving the natural resources of the Nation, the one characteristic more essential than any other is foresight ...The conservation of our natural resources and their proper use constitute the fundamental problem which underlies almost every other problem of our national life."
In recent years the GOP’s rhetoric on science issues such as climate change and evolution has led many to call them the “anti-science” party. This isn’t such a great position to be in during an age where technology and innovation are so important. A 2009 Pew Research study showed that only 6% of scientists identified themselves as Republicans, while 32% considered themselves independents and 55% were Democrats. This was in sharp contrast to the general public, where 23% of respondents identified as Republicans and 35% as Democrats.
Lack of support for the GOP among scientists was even more pronounced when the leanings of self-identified independents were considered. Some 81% either identified as Democrats or leaned in that direction, compared with only 12% who either considered themselves Republicans or leaned in that direction.
The Yale and George Mason study also found that, unfortunately, 62% of participants agreed with the statement, “I don’t think elected officials care much about what people like me think about climate change” while only 15% disagreed, and 22% selected “neither agree or disagree.”
Through the GOP's quest to rebrand before the next election, a strong and fact-based stance on environmental issues could be part of the solution they’ve been searching for.