The following Op-Ed by Jon A. Krosnick appeared June 9 in the New York Times.
People no longer think climate change is much of a problem. Or so recent news stories seem to suggest.
But a new survey by the Political Psychology Research Group shows that huge majorities of Americans still believe the earth has been gradually warming as the result of human activity and want the government to institute regulations to stop it, according to Jon A. Krosnick, a professor of communication, political science and psychology at Stanford.
In a survey financed by a grant to Stanford from the National Science Foundation, 1,000 randomly selected American adults were interviewed by phone between June 1 and June 7, 2010. When respondents were asked if they thought that the earth’s temperature probably had been heating up over the last 100 years, 74 percent answered affirmatively. And 75 percent of respondents said that human behavior was substantially responsible for any warming that has occurred.
“For many issues, any such consensus about the existence of a problem quickly falls apart when the conversation turns to carrying out specific solutions that will be costly. But not so here,” said Krosnick, writing in the New York Times on June 9, 2010.
“Fully 86 percent of the respondents said they wanted the federal government to limit the amount of air pollution that businesses emit, and 76 percent favored government limiting business’s emissions of greenhouse gases in particular. Not a majority of 55 or 60 percent – but 76 percent.
“Large majorities opposed taxes on electricity (78 percent) and gasoline (72 percent) to reduce consumption. But 84 percent favored the federal government offering tax breaks to encourage utilities to make more electricity from water, wind and solar power.
“And huge majorities favored government requiring, or offering tax breaks to encourage, each of the following: manufacturing cars that use less gasoline (81 percent); manufacturing appliances that use less electricity (80 percent); and building homes and office buildings that require less energy to heat and cool (80 percent),” Krosnick said.
Interestingly, few people were worried that efforts to combat climate change would hurt the economy.
“Only 18 percent of respondents said they thought that policies to reduce global warming would increase unemployment and only 20 percent said they thought such initiatives would hurt the nation’s economy,” Krosnick said.
Krosnick’s study also found that other recent surveys show similar results when people are asked simple, direct questins.
“For example, in November, an ABC News/Washington Post survey found that 72 percent of respondents said the earth has been heating up, and a December poll by Ipsos/McClatchy found this proportion to be 70 percent,” Krosnick said
Kronick called global warming “a singular issue” in American politics. “Even as we are told that Americans are about equally divided into red and blue, a huge majority shares a common vision of climate change. This creates a unique opportunity for elected representatives to satisfy a lot of voters,” Krosnick said.