Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
Following on the heels of the latest PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, which tackled the thorny issues of climate change and evolution in the 2012 elections, Yale University’s Project on Climate Change Communication released a special report, Politics & Global Warming: Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and the Tea Party, co-authored by Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale University and Edward Maibach and Connie Roser-Renouf of George Mason University.
Although it’s not quite the “first” survey to separate the Tea Party’s views on global warming from the “traditional political of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents” (see any of PRRI’s surveys over the last 12 months), it still offers fascinating insights into public opinion on specific policy issues. It also shows how strongly Tea Party members can diverge from the rest of American public opinion on these issues, including from Republicans:
- Majorities of Democrats, Independents and Republicans support an international treaty to cut carbon dioxide emissions. A large majority of Tea Party members, however, oppose a treaty, with 55 percent strongly opposed.
- A majority of Democrats oppose building more nuclear power plants (65%), while majorities of Independents (52%), Republicans (62%) and Tea Party members (67%) support building them. However, Tea Party members are the only group in which a majority (52%) support building a nuclear power plant in their own local area. All other groups are opposed.
- Majorities of all four groups say that protecting the environment either improves economic growth and provides new jobs or has no effect on economic growth or jobs. Tea Party members are the most likely to say environmental protection reduces economic growth and costs jobs (33%).
The numbers on global warming are similar to those found by PRRI last month. We discovered that nearly 7-in-10 (69%) Americans say that there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades, compared to only 26% who disagree. However, less than half (49%) of Republicans and only about 4-in-10 (41%) Americans who identify as members of the Tea Party agree. This new Yale survey augments PRRI’s findings, adding that “nearly half of Democrats (45%) say that global warming is already harming people in the United States, while 33% of Republicans and 51% of Tea Party members say it will never harm people in the United States.” Stark differences indeed.