Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty in Climate Change Survey?

The New York Times‘ Coral Davenport and Marjorie Connelly clearly think their newspaper’s new poll on climate change is a big deal, showing that “most Americans”–and nearly half of Republicans–favor government action to deal with the challenge. But I dunno: maybe it’s that I remember a million years ago–or was it just ten?–seeing polls showing relatively little partisan difference on the subject, which is why someone like John McCain could support a cap-and-trade bill, until he couldn’t.

So I’m more inclined than some to pay closer attention to another finding:

Democrats are much more likely than Republicans or independents to say that the issue of global warming is important to them. Among Democrats, 63 percent said the issue was very or extremely important to them personally. In contrast, 40 percent of independents and only 18 percent of Republicans said the same.

What this suggests is that while blatant denialism might get a Republican presidential candidate into trouble, such old-fashioned evasions as “experts differ” and “we’ll deal with it mañana, when the economy’s better” probably won’t be damaging, unless Democrats make a very big deal about it.

The other way to look at it, of course, is that Democrats should have plenty of public support for promoting action on climate change, at least in non-coal-producing areas. But they’re going to have to get over the prevailing feeling among political strategists that it’s just too difficult to weave together economic and environmental themes. There’s entirely too little faith in the Donkey Party, I fear, in the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.