On climate, Democrats and Republicans don’t inhabit the same reality


A deep orange sky covers an automobile bridge across a lake.

Enlarge / If you live in the West, it’s difficult to maintain denial about fires and drought. (credit: Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images)

There are many dramatic contrasts between the Biden administration and its immediate predecessor, and climate policy is high on the list. After four years of promises to restore coal use and claims that windmills caused cancer, we have an administration that promises to cut emissions in half by the end of the decade.

What does the US public think of this change? The Pew Research Center has been tracking attitudes on climate issues for the past several years, and it has new polling data from early May. The polling shows a general weakening of support for climate policies, with most of the change coming from Republicans. But it also shows that the two parties may not even inhabit the same reality, as they largely disagree about whether the weather has changed.

Mind the gap

Pew’s data is based on a survey of over 10,000 US residents, and it was performed in early May (that’s before the most recent surge in gasoline prices, which may be relevant for some questions). In a number of cases, the same questions have been asked for several years running, so we have some data on how attitudes have changed over the transition from the Trump administration to the Biden administration.

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