Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Climate Change Redux

So a former student of mine wasn't too pleased with my take on climate change and the US elections. After some back and forth, he's convinced me to rethink / refine my original, fairly flippant argument to that effect.

My original argument (OK, more of an off-the-cuff assertion validated by a Comedy Central clip than an argument) hinged on two claims: 1) US voters care more about climate change than they did previously, and this concern cuts across the red/blue divide and 2) Obama is speaking to this constituency better than McCain.

Here is evidence to back that up. A PIPA poll in 2006 showed an emerging bipartisan consensus around addressing climate change, among other issues. And regarding McCain's climate platform v. Obama, see, among other things, this post by Matthew Yglesias.

My former student / now friend and colleague's best critique of my argument isn't actually based on refuting either of these claims. It is the following: that even if that's true, climate change will be eclipsed in the November election by other concerns that voters care more about, and that do not cut across the red/blue divide. He supports this claim with the following polling data from last February, showing "the environment" only 13th on a list of issues that voters consider "extremely important." Still, I could say that the fact it's on the list at all is suggestive. And it does show that 27% of the country thinks of it this way. The question is whether these are voters who would swing Democrat over this issue alone.

Problem with Gallup polls is they don't seem to do iterated polls asking the same questions. The actual rebuttal to my claim is not, where was climate change four months ago, it is, in what direction is it trending? And is the red/blue gap shrinking on this issue or not? Unfortunately, neither Gallup nor Pew nor PIPA can tell me whether or not I can prove my friend wrong.

Can any of you? I'm willing to be convinced.

1 comment:

hank_F_M said...

I heard a Republican Congressman say that his kids hit him up about the poor polar bears falling off icebergs after watching Al Gore’s film. He is now supporting global warming action to keep peace in the house.

I think there is lot of that going on. But if it gets to a hard choice between Global Warming and something else the voter cares about, I think Global Warming will lose. Most people have issues that are more important to them.

Of course election rhetoric will be the biggest cause of Global Warming this year, which will reinforce that trend.

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