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Tilting at Windmills

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November 18, 2010

BELIEVING WHAT THEY'RE TOLD TO BELIEVE.... A new report this week from the Pew Research Center shows what we probably could have guessed: conservatives in America reject evidence of global warming. But Pew study also raises an important related point: it didn't use to be this way.

Pew found that a 53% majority of self-identified Republicans believe there is no solid evidence the earth is warming. Among "Tea Party" Republicans, the results were even worse, with 70% concluding that the climate science is wrong. This isn't exactly surprising.

But reader H.S. flagged a key detail about the trend in attitudes:

Disbelief in global warming in the GOP is a recent occurrence. Just a few years ago, in 2007, a 62%-majority of Republicans said there is solid evidence of global warming, while less than a third (31%) said there is no solid evidence. Currently, just 38% of Republicans say there is solid evidence the earth is warming, and only 16% say that warming is caused by human activity. In 2007, three-in-ten Republicans said global warming was the result of human activity.

The national trend is discouraging enough. As recently as July 2006, a whopping 79% of the country believed there's solid evidence pointing to global warming. Four years later, as the evidence has grown stronger, Americans' beliefs have grown weaker -- now only 59% believe there's solid evidence.

But the trend is largely a partisan one -- fewer Americans accept the science because the right has rejected reality so thoroughly.

The larger point to keep in mind is the effect of the discourse. A few years ago, Republican voters, by and large, believed what the mainstream believed when it came to climate science. Then their party, its candidates, and its media outlets told these voters to stop believing the facts -- and rank-and-file Republicans did as they were told. In effect, partisans on the right outsourced their evaluation of evidence to their party, and Republicans decided climate science is no longer worthy of support.

This happens more than it should. If I had to guess, if you asked regular ol' Republican voters several years ago whether the United States should engage in torture, they probably would have said no. But then their party told them to change their mind, and they did. If you asked these GOP voters whether a health care mandate, in line with Republican proposals, was a reasonable policy, they probably would have said yes. But then their party told them to change their mind, and they did.

This really isn't healthy.

Steve Benen 10:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (46)

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Comments

The problem is faith. People who will believe in god will believe in anything. No evidence, no problem -- that's what faith is all about.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on November 18, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Cue concern troll with one of the following:

1) I used to believe in AGW, then temps didn't rise for 3-5 years, and I changed my mind.

2) CLIMATEGATE!!!

3) It's cold today

Posted by: Mike Lamb on November 18, 2010 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

There is a reason that these people called themselves "Ditto-Heads".

Of course that was before Rush Limbaugh and Fox News told them to start calling themselves "the Tea Party".

Posted by: SecularAnimist on November 18, 2010 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

At least they are not lying anymore and calling themselves 'compassionate conservatives'.
That used to make me gag.

Posted by: Diane on November 18, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

These people give a whole new meaning to an old saying. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, fool me consatntly and I'm just a fool.

Posted by: Gandalf on November 18, 2010 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

As Atrios correctly points out, much of this is prolly based on sheer opposition to liberal issues. The right wing idiots don't spare a thought about the future, aqnd the consequences of their denial, they only react in an emotional way to everything liberals come up with. That's insane, of course, but that's how it is.

Posted by: Gray on November 18, 2010 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

At yesterday's house subcommittee on climate change, Rep Dana Rorbach (R, CA) said, in all seriousness, that since there is ALSO climate change on Mars, then it can't be man-made here on earth.

And the "Scientist" from the Cato Institute said, in all seriousness, that fossil trees found in Alaska prove that it was warm back when all that oil got made up there.

Posted by: DAY on November 18, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

When I read that last paragraph, what came to mind is that, if you had asked Democrats whether they favored indefinite detention with no trial for suspected terrorists a couple of years ago, the vast majority would have said no. But after Obama has publicly come out in favor of this approach....

Posted by: argo0 on November 18, 2010 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

so this is it, we're all gonna die?

Posted by: Jamie on November 18, 2010 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Btw, totally OT, but after YEARS of annoyance I'd really like to know why that "Remember personal info?" feature doesn't work at all (not that I didn't raise the problem before, but never got an answer)? It once did, looooong ago, but not anymore. And for a lazy guy like me, the inconvencience of having to fill the info fields EVERY EFFING SINGLE TIME actually leads to avoiding to comment here. Which may be the desired effect for the blog owner, I dunno...

Posted by: Gray on November 18, 2010 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Courtesy of Faux New this country is looking like Idiocracy the Documentary. The stupid is pervasive , a whole generation bereft of any scientific knowledge whatsoever. This country is doomed.

Posted by: john R on November 18, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Gray: this has to do with your own security settings on your own browser. Nothing to do with the web site.

Posted by: Anonny on November 18, 2010 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

How many people who described themselves as Republicans in July 2006 have since left the nut party? When the last remaining sane folks leave, the loonies make up a higher percentage of those who remain.

Posted by: Big River Bandido on November 18, 2010 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

DAY: exactly, Alaska used to be quite warm... before the tectonic plates it rides on moved it north. Stephen Chu had to explain that to Rep. "BP apologizer" Barton. At least Barton seemed to know how oil is created when he asked the question.

hells: As for the faith issue, God gave us brains and the dittoheads are clearly not using theirs. I suspect the problem is more a matter of lack of education in critical thinking, science, etc. than "faith".

Posted by: Hmmmmm on November 18, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

and then in 10 or 20 years, when Florida is underwater, Montana is on fire, and it's the third year of massive crop failures all across the Midwest, guess whose fault it will be?

(hint: not theirs.)

Posted by: tatere on November 18, 2010 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

I for one can't wait for the WTF moment when those coastal properties in Florida start to go under. Waddyamean we can't visit Cape Canaveral???? What happened?? It's Obama's fault - or maybe Acorn. Why doesn't someone fix it.

Posted by: micky effin mouse on November 18, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Can I plagairize that last paragraph?
Because it ought to be in a Letter to the Editor in every single newspaper.

Posted by: Raoul Paste on November 18, 2010 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I've seen this among some relatives who watch and listen to right-wing radio. We used to call it indoctrination. Even they used to call it indoctrination. But that was in the old days, when their enemy was communism and the Soviet Union. Now, the enemy is liberals, and the right wing is thinking maybe the Soviet Union had it more right than wrong. It's very odd: they compare Obama unfavorably with Putin; favor of totalitarian tactics over civil liberties, even those guaranteed by the Constitution; embrace torture of prisoners; and even get caught publicly idolizing old-school Nazis.

(It happened here in Portland, Ore., too. A fricking police officer, no less, surreptitiously erected a plaque honoring Nazi soldiers in a public park. The D.A.'s office found out about when the cop was charged with roughing up war protesters. So the D.A. ... made the guy retrieve the plaque, which few people apparently could see unless they knew it existed and went looking for it, and hid it. Some people call that suppressing evidence. Portland calls it an "unfortunate lapse in judgment.")

It's all very weird and very bad. And, sorry to say, I think Fox News and right-wing radio are the big culprits here. Indoctrination works.

Posted by: lisa on November 18, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

argo0: I am a lifelong Democrat, proud liberal, and voted for Obama. I do not believe in indefinite detention with no trial for suspected terrorists and it is insulting that you would imply that I do. The right and left in this country are not the same.

Posted by: wilde west on November 18, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

john R: it really is bad, isn't it? It's one thing to see the media choose stories that so that they help Republicans, as when the NY Times wrote over 100,000 words of front page articles over several years on Whitewater but wouldn't tough the Bush insider trading scandal (an investigation that was stopped because his daddy was President at the time).

That's bad enough, but at least it's not in the realm of promoting outright falsehoods. However, starting with the propoganda campaign for the Iraq War, we saw the press get used to the idea of publishing stuff that was flat out, provably wrong and not be worried about it.

I can't think of an earlier time when the entire nation believed so many things that were easily proven untrue. From Obama-raised-taxes to spending-has-exploded-under-Obama even mainstream Americans believe things that can be easily shown to be wrong.

Once we reach the point that the vast majority get the simple stuff wrong, it's very easy to mislead them on the complex stuff like global warming, the relation between government spending and job growth, the relation between top tax rates and job growth, the long-term health of social security, the efficacy of single payer health systems in other countries, the relative size of the military budget, routine violations by both Bush and Obama of the 4th amendment, 5th and 6th amendments, routine violations by Bush of the 1st amendment, etc etc.

We are doomed.

Posted by: Anonny on November 18, 2010 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

I think the change in Republican attitudes about Climate Change, torture, etc. is much more tied to the rise of Evangelical Crazy Religious Nut Conservatives that rank and file Republicans. They are the ones driving the GOP boat now and God allows anything they want to put forward. Torture is OK if done against heathens, the Earth is changing because God wants it to. And so forth and so on. As long as these nuts are in charge, God will guide our National Bus right off into the ditch.

Posted by: T2 on November 18, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

M. E. M., I can't remember who said it but along the "they'll get theirs" line, it may be that the last human alive will be Limbaugh standing on the last foot of unsubmerged land and yelling that it was all Al Gore's fault. They will never, ever, have a come to Jesus moment, which is ironic given what Repubs say about Jesus.

Posted by: angler on November 18, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

"BELIEVING WHAT THEY'RE TOLD TO BELIEVE...."

I think there are a lot of stupid people out there who believe whatever they're told, but the real problem here is a "belief" system not based on facts or reason, but instead, on one's own personal or political agenda. For the right wing in this country "truth" only means what can further their cause. It has nothing to do with facts or reality.

Posted by: SaintZak on November 18, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

"The problem is faith. People who will believe in god will believe in anything. No evidence, no problem -- that's what faith is all about."

The problem is faith. People who will believe will believe in anything.

Faith is nothing more than assumption. Anyone here have no assumptions?

Most of the people reading this page liked Clinton once; and Carter. Most of you defend the idea of a Jewish state and therefore defend the right of Israeli Jews to worry about demography. Israeli Arabs don't call that liberalism and neither do I. But you have faith. You want a longer list of American "liberal" delusions?

American liberals are as responsible for their failure as American conservatives are. Republicans don't win elections nearly as often as democrats simply lose them.

I've been all over the world and to an outsider it's shocking how unsophisticated the debate is here. Power corrupts.

Posted by: le mepris on November 18, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

"this has to do with your own security settings on your own browser. Nothing to do with the web site."
Maybe. But why should it be so? No such problem at other websites, without any adjustments!

Posted by: Gray on November 18, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

wilde west -- I'm delighted to hear that you have this view, and did not mean to suggest that you or any individual whose view I don't know feels otherwise. Just like I'm sure that you are delighted that there are many Republicans who accept global warming, and would not want to suggest that any individual Republican feels otherwise simply because s/he is a Republican -- after all, the Pew data Steve cites indicates that only 53% of Republicans reject global warming.

My point is that there's little doubt that the overall percentage of Democrats with a certain viewpoint shifts in response to Obama's position. E.g., Obama's embrace of the Bush approach to the war on terror, even going beyond it in some instances, has largely (but certainly not wholly) muted the criticism of those tactics that was so prevalent when Bush espoused them. To suggest that the tendency to follow the positions of the leadership is only present among conservatives or Republicans is absurd.

Posted by: argo0 on November 18, 2010 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Orwell described this perfectly a long time ago: "Four legs good--two legs bad!" Oops! "Four legs good--two legs better!"

Posted by: Paul Gottlieb on November 18, 2010 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

What is being lamented here is the triumph of propaganda over critical thinking. The Koch brothers, the coal industry, and their ilk, both corporate and individual, have waged a decades-long relentless campaign against climate science. It has succeeded because the level of science literacy in this country has decreased so remarkably that most people couldn't tell you difference between religion and science if their lives depended on it.

Science is now identified as being 'liberal', 'elite', and therefore not to be trusted. Facts are what you believe. Clearly the bible is a more reliable predictor of the future than anything science could manage.

I bristle whenever someone asks, "Do you believe in evolution?" or "Do you believe in global warming?" These are idiotic questions betraying unbelievable ignorance when we supposedly live in an age of enlightenment. The only thing about science to 'believe in' is the process, which is self-correcting, unlike religion.

The Barbarians are always with us, but not usually in control. They are now, and so the new dark ages can't be far behind.

Posted by: rrk1 on November 18, 2010 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

argo0: I have seen the numbers regarding Republican willingness to follow their leader, but I have not seen similar numbers related to Democrats. I would need proof on this assertion. The irritating and beautiful thing about the left is we are opinionated and don't follow blindly. Sometimes I wish we could do better at this, the last two years might have been different. But the right and left are two different animals - this is revealed in many ways.

Posted by: wilde west on November 18, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

It is a combination of things mentioned. In uncertain times, those with little tolerance for uncertainty are happy to believe something that makes the future more manageable, even if it isn't true. And there is a whole industry set up to tell them what is and isn't true (for the benefit of the folks who set it up).

I'd also venture to guess many former GOPers have become independents precisely because they can think for themselves and can't stomach the flight from reality, so don't show up in those figures.

The fight to mitigate climate change will have to be led by individuals and groups who do get it, and by industries whose future depends on mitigating climate change's effects. Within the next 10 years we may see an ice-free Arctic Ocean in the summer and a significant loss of ice from either Greenland or West Antarctica or both. We will definitely see more extreme weather, storm surges, hurricanes and more widespread heat waves and droughts.

Whether any of that is enough to build consensus, only time will tell. If it doesn't, it is very likely that by 2040 this place will be pretty unliveable, with worse to come because by then melting permafrost will have released methane that will greatly increase the greenhouse effect and the ice sheets will be unstable and melting rapidly, promising a rise in sea level of 50-100 feet and temperature increases of 10 degrees by 2200 or so. This is from a US Government report.

Posted by: Mimikatz on November 18, 2010 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

My experience in a recent dust up in the comments section of a Mother Jones story on global climate change was discouraging. The truth is that numerous investigations of climategate have shown some unprofessional behavior but no scientific misconduct. The scientific evidence was not affected, and the overwhelming majority of scientists, and climate scientist in particular, support the thesis of human activity caused global climate change. Yet the “truth” in the right wing echo chambers is that all evidence for climate change has been totally discredited, and that scientists are rejecting climate change in waves. There is no basis for rational discussion with these people, they keep bringing up scientific evidence against climate change that include such gems as “Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore both have large carbon footprints” and “the moons of Saturn are warming too”. The sad thing is that the vast majority of these clowns not only don’t understand the evidence for climate change, they don’t understand the scientific method, or even rational thought.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on November 18, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

@Mike Lamb: those are comments that standard-issue trolls would make. A concern troll would yammer on about jobs and the economy and how doing too much would lead to a backlash (nevermind that anything Dems do results in a "backlash") and how it's pointless unless China and India do something (and they won't do anything until the US does something), etc.

Posted by: PeakVT on November 18, 2010 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

All the yelling about melting glaciers and rising seas and changing weather patterns is a sidebar to the Big One:

Ocean Acidification!

I won't bore with the details, but Co2 increases the ph level of the ocean, and tiny critters that make their shells out of calcium now find that their exoskeletons are dissolving. And these microscopic plankton are the very bottom of the food chain. Need I say more?

Posted by: DAY on November 18, 2010 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

An key faction of the GOP coalition believes that destruction of nature is a GOOD thing. End Timers look forward to the sudden, violent deaths of the "non-elect." Remember how gleeful Pat Robertson was at the divine retribution that 9/11 represented?

Climate change? Just part of the wonderful chaos that lets us know the end is near. (There are tens of millions of Americans who hear this in church regularly and are urged to vote their religious beliefs by pastors and politicians.)

Posted by: W Action on November 18, 2010 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Anonny As I heard in this blogs posts a few days ago We have entered the era of untruth, where blatant lies are accepted as fact.

Posted by: john R on November 18, 2010 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

http://www.wattsupwiththat.com

Nuff' said.

Ainwis

Posted by: Independent on November 18, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

And this is "news" to who?

The same old Strategic Forgettery has been going on for years because there is absolutely nothing left sifting around inside their mushy, angry skulls except that sparkly aluminum sand that good people at Ohio Arts use to make the Etch-a-Sketch.

Shake-shake-shake...and Ronald Reagan never sold weapons to terrorists, funded an illegal war, raised taxes four times, or left behind the largest deficit in American history up until that time.

Shake-shake-shake...and Bush the Elder never hired Lee Atwater.

Shake-shake-shake...and what Southern Strategy?

Shake-shake-shake...and George W. Bush is the Greatest President Ever, you filthy, Liberal traitors!

Shake-shake-shake...and where did you ever get the idea that anyone in the Conservative Movement supported that "Progressive" George W. Bush?

Shake-shake-shake...George Bush who?

Shake-shake-shake...Sarah Palin never supported the bailout!

Shake-shake-shake...Deficits don't matter.

Shake-shake-shake...Deficits are worse than six Hitlers!

Shake-shake-shake...the Kenyan Usurper's deficits are destroying America.

Shake-shake-shake...why do you keep calling me a "Republican"? I'm a Conservative!

Shake-shake-shake...why do you keep calling me a "Conservative"? I'm an Independent!

Shake-shake-shake...why do you keep calling me a "Independent"? I'm a Independent/Conservo/Libertarian!

Same as it ever was.

http://bit.ly/cedrQS

Posted by: driftglass on November 18, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

@jamie: so this is it, we're all gonna die?

Um, yeah, sorry. I didn't used to believe that it was true, and then I started to read the U.S. government report Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States (google it).

I think it's interesting what's happening with the republicans right now. There is a kind of societal craziness...an outbreak of irrationality. Kind of like Europe before WWI, or Germany before WWII. I'm not saying that it's directly analogous, but it seems like we're seeing the advent of powerful psychological forces that are leading us down a path of hatred and destruction.

Posted by: rae on November 18, 2010 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, why such a bunch of grumpy-guts? Cheer up! Republicans are so good at manipulating perceptions of reality (last of the Airbenders, you might say), that when the place is an icecap scoured with freezing, gritty winds, Republicans will come to the rescue by convincing the faithful that they are not really freezing their stupid Luddite asses off - in fact, it's toasty warm with palm trees and erry'thin.

Posted by: Mark on November 18, 2010 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

I would like to respond to the first commenter, who said: "The problem is faith. People who will believe in god will believe in anything. No evidence, no problem -- that's what faith is all about."

I have been following the right for over forty years now, and I believe that there is a very real sense in which this is true. The Conservative movement in this country is in very large part filled with Evangelical Christians, who have, since birth, been taught to abandon their own reason and accept what they are told by self-appointed authority figures. The difficulty the rest of us have in openly engaging this irrational, hate-filled movement, because of its alleged religiosity, has allowed it to grow for decades until it threatens us all.

Posted by: Green Eagle on November 18, 2010 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Al Gore drives an SUV, therefore, global warming is not real. It's all a scam, foisted on us by the Gore-bots and the liberal media, intent on lining their own pockets with lucrative government grants to study something that doesn't exist.

Hey, is it hot in here, or is it just me?

Posted by: josef on November 18, 2010 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

An key faction of the GOP coalition believes that destruction of nature is a GOOD thing. End Timers look forward to the sudden, violent deaths of the "non-elect." Remember how gleeful Pat Robertson was at the divine retribution that 9/11 represented?

Climate change? Just part of the wonderful chaos that lets us know the end is near. (There are tens of millions of Americans who hear this in church regularly and are urged to vote their religious beliefs by pastors and politicians.)

As they used to have us sing in the parochial school of my childhood:

"I'm but a stranger here
Heaven is my home

Earth is a desert drear
Heaven is my home

Danger and sorrow stand
'Round me on every hand
Heaven is my fatherland
Heaven is my home"

Posted by: Chet on November 18, 2010 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

To the commenter about ocean pH: CO2 (carbon dioxide) dissolving in the ocean REDUCES pH, not increases it. The lower the pH, the more acid.

Posted by: rrk1 on November 18, 2010 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Beneen:

. . . if you asked regular ol' Republican voters several years ago whether the United States should engage in torture, they probably would have said no. But then their party told them to change their mind, and they did.

Some of us left the party because of this sort of behavior. I left the evening in 2008 the GOP Convention unanimously nominated Sarah Palin to be their VP candidate. That was the shark jumping incident that validated to me the party's descent into an unserious form of insanity was irreversible and likely to get worse - though I'd pretty much been voting for Dems since 2002 after joining the GOP in 1978 as a Gerald Ford / Bill Milliken moderate.

Posted by: Michael Heath on November 19, 2010 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

You have to read this guy's research. It really explains everything about these folks. Really:
.
http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

Posted by: shep on November 19, 2010 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

It's actually called Climate Change, not Global Warming because it's showed to be extreme at both heat and cold. Every year in this last decade there are record hot spells as well as record cold spells globally. This is a fact. As well as record hurricanes and everything else that goes with it. Climate Change is here to stay. You'd need to be blind ignorant and dumb not to notice it.

Posted by: Dean on December 5, 2010 at 6:17 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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