by Carroll Doherty, Associate Director, Pew Center on the People & the Press
Republicans have long viewed the issue of global warming as a relatively unimportant issue. But this year, Republicans’ concerns about global warming have fallen through the floor. Just 12% of Republicans say that “dealing with global warming” should be a top priority for President Bush and Congress, making it by far their lowest-ranking issue.
In January 2007, global warming also ranked at the bottom of the Republicans’ priorities list. But at that time, nearly twice as many Republicans rated it as a major priority as do so currently (23% then, 12% now). This year, the next lowest-rated policy priority among Republicans was providing health insurance to the uninsured, with 27% saying it should be a top priority for the president and Congress. For Democrats and independents, roughly a third or more rated even the lowest rated items as top priorities.
Generally, even policy issues that are not seen as a “top priority” are rated as at least an “important but lower priority.” Relatively few people say that any priority is “not too important” or “should not be done.” For example, even though Republicans view insuring the uninsured as a secondary concern, fully 67% say it should be either a top priority (27%), or an important but lower priority (40%). Just 30% say that it is not too important a priority (17%) or that it should not be dealt with at all. (13%).
By contrast, only about half of Republicans (51%) say that dealing with global warming is a top priority or an important but lower priority. Nearly as many (46%) say that addressing the issue is not too important or should not be done. Conservative Republicans place a still lower priority on dealing with the phenomenon: while 45% say it is either a top policy priority (8%) or an important but lower priority (37%), a slim majority (52%) say that dealing with global warming is either not too important (28%) or should not be done at all (24%).
Most Republicans do not, however, reject evidence of rising world temperatures. In a survey conducted in January 2007,1 slightly more than half of conservative Republicans (54%) agreed that there is solid evidence that average temperatures have been getting warmer over the past few decades. By contrast, more than-three quarters of moderate and liberal Republicans (78%), an identical percentage of independents, and an even higher proportion of Democrats, said they believe that the earth is getting warmer.
1 See “Global Warming: A Divide on Causes and Solutions,” Jan. 24, 2007.