Yale University has funded an interesting new Associated Press poll that goes deep into Americans’ attitudes towards climate change. Hopefully, its findings will encourage Democrats to talk as much as possible about the issue.

The key findings are that Americans believe by 56-20 that global warming is happening; 72 percent are very or moderately worried about it; and 50 percent say human activity is a key cause.

That’s good. But the question then becomes: What are Americans prepared to do about it? And on that score, the poll goes deeper into public opinion, with more heartening results:

* By 50-23, Americans favor “U.S. participation in the development of a new international treaty to address global warming.” As I’ve noted here before, the negotiation of such a treaty next year could make the question of whether the U.S. participates an issue in the 2016 presidential race.

President Obama’s regulations on existing power plants, and other E.P.A. regulations, will be implemented over time, and success on this front is important in terms of whether we can meet our obligations as part of such a treaty. Hillary Clinton has pledged to protect those actions. Meanwhile, the mere fact that Obama is likely to talk about climate a lot in his next two years — he reportedly views it as central to his legacy — pretty much ensures that the 2016 GOP candidates will have to oppose his actions. It’s a safe bet they will oppose American participation in a global treaty, too — hopefully focusing attention on this question in the context of the presidential contest.

And the partisan divide on this question underscores the point. According to the AP’s helpful polling team, a narrow plurality of Republicans, 38-35, opposes joining an international treaty. Interestingly, that’s not even close to a majority of Republicans. Of course, as we’ve seen before, GOP presidential primary candidates tend to speak to the most conservative segment of their voters.

* Americans say by 61-34 that the “United States should be a leader on global warming, even if meant taking action when others do not.” Republicans like to say that there is no percentage in America acting to reduce carbon emissions, because other major economies won’t, so what’s the point? These numbers suggest Americans perhaps don’t agree.

* Crucially, 60 percent of Americans say that in the long run, protecting the environment will “improve economic growth and provide new jobs.” Only 15 percent say protecting the environment would “reduce economic growth and cost jobs.” Even Republicans agree: They say this by 51-23. (Once again, GOP presidential primary candidates will likely speak to that 23 percent).

As Paul Krugman has documented, the argument that combating climate change must impose massive economic costs is a central weapon wielded by those hostile to any action, but it’s way, way overstated. Crucial to the argument for action is that it carries hidden economic benefits. This new polling suggests the possibility that the argument can be won if approached in the right way.

Obviously, the major challenge Democrats and environmentalists face is: How can they make climate change an issue that actually motivates voters? They haven’t cracked that code yet. But as I’ve argued, a host of new factors are converging to make it more likely that the issue gets more political attention in the 2016 cycle than it has in the past. Obama and Democrats may be able to help that process along by talking about the issue as much as possible. And that’s what they should do.

**************************************************

Update: Post edited slightly for accuracy.

 

 

In its inaugural poll of Americans’ environmental attitudes, a new collaboration between The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that most Americans say the United States ought to take a leadership role in combatting global warming, and twice as many Americans think the country should participate in international treaty negotiations aimed at addressing its effects as oppose it. – See more at: http://www.apnorc.org/projects/Pages/american-attitudes-about-global-warming-and-energy-policy.aspx#sthash.YnOBaYXR.dpuf
In its inaugural poll of Americans’ environmental attitudes, a new collaboration between The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that most Americans say the United States ought to take a leadership role in combatting global warming, and twice as many Americans think the country should participate in international treaty negotiations aimed at addressing its effects as oppose it. – See more at: http://www.apnorc.org/projects/Pages/american-attitudes-about-global-warming-and-energy-policy.aspx#sthash.YnOBaYXR.dpuf

 

In its inaugural poll of Americans’ environmental attitudes, a new collaboration between The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that most Americans say the United States ought to take a leadership role in combatting global warming, and twice as many Americans think the country should participate in international treaty negotiations aimed at addressing its effects as oppose it. – See more at: http://www.apnorc.org/projects/Pages/american-attitudes-about-global-warming-and-energy-policy.aspx#sthash.YnOBaYXR.dp
In its inaugural poll of Americans’ environmental attitudes, a new collaboration between The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that most Americans say the United States ought to take a leadership role in combatting global warming, and twice as many Americans think the country should participate in international treaty negotiations aimed at addressing its effects as oppose it. – See more at: http://www.apnorc.org/projects/Pages/american-attitudes-about-global-warming-and-energy-policy.aspx#sthash.YnOBaYXR.dpuf
In its inaugural poll of Americans’ environmental attitudes, a new collaboration between The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that most Americans say the United States ought to take a leadership role in combatting global warming, and twice as many Americans think the country should participate in international treaty negotiations aimed at addressing its effects as oppose it. – See more at: http://www.apnorc.org/projects/Pages/american-attitudes-about-global-warming-and-energy-policy.aspx#sthash.YnOBaYXR.dpuf
In its inaugural poll of Americans’ environmental attitudes, a new collaboration between The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that most Americans say the United States ought to take a leadership role in combatting global warming, and twice as many Americans think the country should participate in international treaty negotiations aimed at addressing its effects as oppose it. – See more at: http://www.apnorc.org/projects/Pages/american-attitudes-about-global-warming-and-energy-policy.aspx#sthash.YnOBaYXR.dpuf
In its inaugural poll of Americans’ environmental attitudes, a new collaboration between The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that most Americans say the United States ought to take a leadership role in combatting global warming, and twice as many Americans think the country should participate in international treaty negotiations aimed at addressing its effects as oppose it. – See more at: http://www.apnorc.org/projects/Pages/american-attitudes-about-global-warming-and-energy-policy.aspx#sthash.YnOBaYXR.dpuf