In less than a decade, a bipartisan view in California about the need to fight global warming has largely evaporated, with Democrats overwhelmingly seeing it as a very serious problem, while Republicans — just as overwhelmingly — are unconvinced.
A new survey by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found “stark partisan differences on this issue,” with eight in 10 Democrats saying global climate is very serious, compared with about one in five Republicans — just 21 percent — who said they viewed it the same way.
The partisan gap has been steadily widening for years, but the latest survey reflects the depth of the split.
“In fact, a plurality of Republicans say it is not a problem (35%), the PPIC reported. “A majority of independents (55%) view climate change as a very serious problem. While at least half of residents across regions view it as a very serious problem, this perception is higher in the San Francisco Bay Area (63%), Los Angeles (61%), and Orange/San Diego (61%) than in the Central Valley (55%) and the Inland Empire (50%). Blacks (71%), Asians (66%), and Latinos (63%) are more likely than whites (51%) to view climate change as a very serious problem.
The latest results reflect a dramatic turnaround in California: A 2006 PPIC survey found two-thirds majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents in favor of landmark legislation, AB 32, to curb climate-changing greenhouse gases — legislation that was signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.
Last year, the PPIC noted the growing partisan split over the seriousness of global warming and the need to fight it. Independents and Democrats remained heavily in support of AB 32, but Republican backing dropped to 39 percent.
The PPIC said the decline was due to two reasons.
“The first is the increasingly common belief among Republicans that global warming is not imminent, ” the PPIC said. “The second factor is rising concern among Republicans that addressing global warming will affect the economy and jobs.”
The latest results indicate the sense among those surveyed that curbing greenhouse gases actually will lead to more jobs.
“Even in the wake of controversy this summer over a new state law on climate change (SB 350), a plurality of Californians (45%) say that state actions to reduce global warming would cause there to be more jobs for people around the state and 27 percent say it would not affect the number of jobs; 19 percent think action would result in fewer jobs.”
Overall, a majority of Californians, some 57 percent, view global warming as very serious, while another 23 percent see it as somewhat serious. Just over one in 10 of those surveyed — 11 percent — say it’s not a problem. The concerns about global warming in California are greater than those of many industrialized countries.
“Californians (57 percent) give relatively high rankings to global climate change as a very serious problem compared to residents of the Group of Eight nations surveyed by Pew (56% France, 55% Germany, 55% Italy, 51% Canada, 45% Japan, 45% U.S., 41% United Kingdom, 33% Russia).” the PPIC noted.
The survey was released as Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown — who has focused overwhelmingly on climate change as a core concern of his administration — heads to Europe for an international conference on combating greenhouse gases.
Ed’s Note: The results were based on a survey of 1,703 California adult residents, including 1,020 interviewed on landline telephones and 683 interviewed on cell phones. The interviews were conducted Nov. 8-17.