The Gallup poll provides some insight. First, it notes that whether or not you are concerned about global warming depends upon your Party affiliation. The pollsters found that 77 percent of Democrats worried about global warming versus 45 percent of Republicans. In an increasingly polarized society, Democrats and Republicans see things quite differently. This is true on most issues: Iraq, where 72 percent of Republicans think the US will win versus 29 percent of Dems, and the economy, where 60 percent of Republicans think economic conditions are good or excellent versus 20 percent of Dems. The mood of GOP adherents is remarkably different from that of those who support the minority Party. Sixty percent of Republicans are satisfied with the direction of the country versus just nine percent of Democrats.
This polarization may not make sense, but it does follow a certain logic: If you trust George W. Bush, then you accept his view of things. The President doesnt think that global warming is a big deal. Therefore, his supportersabout one-third of the electorate if you believe the latest pollsgo along with his perspective. George is our shepherd, I shall not worry.
The fascinating question is why more of the rest of us, those who arent Bush supporters, arent agitated about Global Warming. Its easy to write off Republicans as mindless lemmings. But, why do so many otherwise rational Democrats and Independents disregard the dire warnings about global climate change? The answer seems to be that they cant deal with global warming in the abstract. And, so far, they dont believe its impacting where they live.
The Gallup results are similar to those reported by Time Magazine and ABC News on March 26th. However, the Time/ABC poll asked an interesting question that Gallup didnt ask: do you think global warming is affecting your weather? Just over half of Americans (52%) say weather patterns in the county where they live have grown more unstable in the last three years and half (50%) feel that average temperatures have risen in their county. In other words, Americans are beginning to worry about the relationship between global climate change and the weather they experience.
Whats maddening about these polls is that they dont show the relationship between where the respondents livefor example, if they live on the Gulf Coastand their perceptions of global warming. Obviously, it makes sense for an American who lives in Berkeley, where the weather hasnt changed all that much in the last three years, to see global warming differently than does someone who lives in Central Florida or New Orleans. If you had a dramatic weather event, in your backyard, then you would be expected to take global climate change more seriously than someone who hadnt experienced a hurricane, tornado, or prolonged drought.
What these polls do indicate is that the environment in general, and global warming in particular, are potent issues at the local level. They generate interest wherever American see pollution or radical weather change in their own backyard. Apparently, the rest of us cant be bothered, because we have too many other problems to worry about.