The degree of cluelessness amongst US Conservatives

Climate scientist Dr. Kevin Trenberth at the March for Science on 22 April 2017 in Denver, Colorado. Photograph: Kevin Trenberth

Thanks to Gallop we need not guess about the quantity of ignorance and anti-science that prevails within the US Conservative tribe, because they have provided a very precise measurement.

What the latest Gallop poll reveals is that during the past year not much has changed.

Global Warming Concern Steady Despite Some Partisan Shifts

Partisan Divisions in Americans’ Views of Global Warming
2017 2018
% %
Think the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated
Republican 66 69
Independent 32 34
Democrat 10 4
Say most scientists believe global warming is occurring
Republican 53 42
Independent 71 65
Democrat 86 86
Believe effects of global warming have already begun
Republican 41 34
Independent 67 60
Democrat 73 82
Believe global warming is caused by human activities
Republican 40 35
Independent 70 62
Democrat 87 89
Worry a great deal/fair amount about global warming
Republican 36 33
Independent 67 62
Democrat 90 91
Think global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetime
Republican 14 18
Independent 45 45
Democrat 58 67

There really is no polite way of saying it, but when it comes to the topic of Climate change, if you are a Democrat that you are most probably adopting an evidence-based view, if you are independent, well, not so much. However, being a Republican appears to more or less guarantee that you are an idiot.

Take for example the second question that asks “most scientists believe global warming is occurring“. This is not asking you what you believe, but instead is asking what the majority of scientists advise. You don’t even need to agree with their position.

Go to Google and enter “number of scientists who believe global warming”

  • 1st hit says 97%
  • 2nd hit says 97%
  • 3rd hit says 97%
  • 4th hit says 97%

… and on and on. It takes only a few seconds using a smartphone to find out. Yet when Republicans are asked if “Most scientists” agree that Global Warming is happening, only 42% of them think so. That leaves 58% of them rejecting an easily verifiable fact.

That 42% in 2018 is not static. When compared with 2017, it is down from 53%. That means that 11% of them got the answer right in 2017, and in 2018 decided to instead switch and embrace fiction as fact, and reject fact as fiction.

There really is no other way to say it, but words such as “idiot” and “clueless” cease to simply be derogatory terms and instead function as statements of measurable fact.

Longer Term Trends

Putting aside the politics and looking at the group as a whole, Gallop is able to use the answers to four of the question that people gave to put everybody into one of the following three groups …

  • The supportive group, “Concerned Believers,” uniformly worries a great deal about global warming and thinks human activity causes it. Seven in 10 Concerned Believers also expect global warming to pose a serious threat in their lifetime. None believes that news reports of global warming exaggerate the problem — they think reports either underestimate it or are correct.
  • By contrast, the dismissive group, or “Cool Skeptics,” worries little to not at all about global warming. Its members uniformly believe that news reports about global warming exaggerate the problem and doubt global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetime. They also ascribe warming to natural environmental changes rather than human activities.
  • The “Mixed Middle” expresses some combination of views across the four items. The slight majority, 53%, thinks news of global warming is correct or even underestimated. At the same time, the majority, 55%, worries only a little or not at all about global warming, and 64% doubt that it will pose a serious threat in their lifetime. The Mixed Middle is split on whether global warming is caused by human activity (48%) or natural changes in the environment (42%).

They can then use these categories to look back over the past several decades and see how the overall trends have changed. The chart looks like this …

Age, Gender, and Education

There are other ways of looking at all of this.

Age, Gender, and also educational differences do also stand out rather clearly.

2018 Global Warming Opinion Groups
Concerned Believers Mixed Middle Cool Skeptics
% % %
U.S. adults 48 32 19
Party ID
Democrats 81 18 1
Independents 44 38 18
Republicans 17 38 45
Women 54 33 13
Men 42 32 26
College graduate 59 23 18
Not college graduate 44 37 20
18 to 34 58 32 11
35 to 54 50 30 20
55 and older 40 35 24
Based on cluster analysis of four Gallup global warming questions: concern about global warming, perception of whether seriousness is exaggerated in the news, whether global warming is caused by human activities and whether it will pose a serious threat in own lifetime

Bottom Line

The Gallop conclusion is this …

The higher level of concern Americans have exhibited about global warming since 2016, particularly in terms of worrying about the issue and believing it is caused by human activity, is largely intact this year.

One reason for this stability is that Americans’ views on the issue are becomingly increasingly partisan and therefore entrenched. With Trump reversing many of his predecessors’ policies aimed at curbing global warming, Democrats are feeling a greater sense of urgency about the issue, while Republicans have either remained as skeptical as they had been in the past or have become more so.

They are correct regarding “partisan”, especially with a tribal chief declaring it all a hoax. This perhaps leads to many within the tribe unthinkingly falling into line.

My own personal bottom line is that many Republicans are clueless idiots. However, you don’t need a poll of an understanding of Climate change to work that out. Anybody seriously supporting Trump is more or less self-certifying this. The fact that the Whitehouse has an almost permanent leaving party due to the astonishing degree of staff turnover should offer some subtle clue … but apparently not.

There are also some other not so subtle clues. His gross dishonesty that goes on public display via twitter on an almost daily basis, or his racist remarks and support for literal Nazis as “very fine people”. Let’s not forget that he is also a self-confessed sexual predator.

If all of that, and much more fails to set any alarm bells ringing, then yes, the term “clueless idiot” is indeed theirs to own and cherish.

I get that many are feeling left behind, angry, isolated, fearful of change, and insecure, but to then continue to embrace Trump as the solution is not simply mistaken, but borders on an almost full-blown psychoses.

There is perhaps some potential empathy remaining. If you live inside the Fox News misinformation bubble then it is perhaps indeed understandable that many have been, and continue to be deceived and manipulated. Some are hardcore denialists and utterly immune to facts, but many are simply unaware and kept in a state ignorance quite oblivious that they are being lied to.

Meanwhile the reality of climate change will continue unabated because reality does not give a toss about party politics.

Further Reading

Dana Nuccitelli, writes in the Guardian about this – American conservatives are still clueless about the 97% expert climate consensus.

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