Tea party Republicans are biggest climate change deniers, new Pew poll finds

November 1, 2013

Tea party Republicans are now the only group of Americans who think the Earth is not warming, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, with just 25 percent of tea party Republicans saying global warming is happening. By contrast, 67 percent of all Americans say there is evidence climate change is underway, including 61 percent of non-tea party Republicans.

Democrats and independents are more confident about global warming: 88 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents say there is solid evidence climate change has taken place over the past few decades.

Despite broad belief in warming overall, fewer than half the public believes human activity is to blame (44 percent), a number hardly changed from last year (42 percent). That's despite a significant rise in the share of Americans who believe scientists generally agree the Earth is getting warmer because of human activity, from 45 percent last year to 54 percent now.

Partisans have sharply differing perceptions of the level of scientific consensus that mirror splits in their own beliefs -- seven in 10 Democrats, but just over four in 10 Republicans say scientists “generally agree” humans are causing a rise in the Earth’s temperature.

In 2009, more than nine in 10 scientists said the Earth has gotten warmer, according to a separate Pew Research survey conducted among members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The survey is the latest evidence that the tea party has split Republican loyalists, not just over the recent government shutdown and the budget but on lower-profile issues such as immigration and the environment. Fully 70 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who agree with the tea party movement said there’s no solid evidence the Earth has gotten warmer in the past few decades. That compares to 61 percent of non-tea party Republicans who believe warming is happening, along with majorities in over 60 demographic and political groups that believe global warming is happening, according to the poll.

Several environmental and liberal groups, including the League of Conservation Voters and Organizing for Action, have sought to make climate change denial a liability in recent elections. In the Virginia governor's race, LCV, the biggest outside spender, has targeted GOP nominee Ken Cuccinelli for suggesting that global warming is not linked to human activity, and Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe has run ads on the issue.

 

Peyton M. Craighill contributed to this report.

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Aaron Blake | November 1, 2013