Tea Partiers, and Republicans in general, are more skeptical about science, and more sure that they are right, than Democrats and independents, according to a new study.
Research from the University of New Hampshire finds a large gap between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to acceptance of what scientists have to say. When it comes to one of the most contentious issues, climate change, the study found a 53 percentage point gap between the two parties. When Republicans were broken down into “traditional” and “Tea Party” respondents, the study found the Tea Party supporters are even less accepting of science than other Republicans.
The study, titled “A Four Party View Of Environmental Concern,” by Lawrence Hamilton and Kei Saito of the UNH Sociology Department, reveals some eye-opening numbers about Republicans and environmental science. For example, when respondents were asked if they trust scientists as a source of information about environmental issues, overall, 64 percent said “yes.” But, when those responses were broken down into the categories “Democrat,” “Independent,” “Republican,” and “Tea Party,” the differences were astounding.
Eighty three percent of Democrats said they trust scientists, with only one percent saying no, they don’t trust them. Only 60 percent of Republicans said that they trust scientists, while 31 percent said they weren’t sure. But for Tea Party respondents? The number of Tea Partiers who said “yes, we trust scientists” was the lowest of the three choices. Only 28 percent of self identified Tea Party members said they trust scientists, compared to 43 percent who said they didn’t trust them, and 29 percent who said they weren’t sure.
Tea Party Republicans’ responses about a variety of environmental and climate related issues were downright scary. Only 25 percent of Tea Partiers said that they think environmental regulations are a good thing. They also see no need to conserve resources. On those topics, their other Republican colleagues agree with them, although more traditional members of the GOP are a little more accepting of regulations and conservation. But there is still a 20 to 30 point gap between traditional Republicans and Democrats on those issues.
Tea Partiers largely reject the idea that the climate is changing now, and that humans are the main cause. There is a large gap between the Tea Party and traditional Republicans on that issue, but even old school Republicans who believe that humans are causing climate change are in a minority among members of the GOP. Tea Partiers also refuse to believe that most scientists agree on climate change. Only 24 percent said that they believe that a majority of scientists agree on the issue.
But the scariest part of the whole survey? After revealing their skepticism about science, especially environmental science, Tea Partiers said that they are sure they understand the issue of climate change. A whopping 83 percent said their understanding of the issue was “moderate or great.” Tea Partiers were more sure they understand the issue than any other political group, beating out Democrats, of whom 82 percent said they understand the issue.
Dangerous times ahead for the environment
This study of Tea Party, and Republican ignorance about science comes at a time when Republicans, a number of whom are Tea Party supporters, are preparing to take control of key posts related to environmental policy in Washington. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) will chair the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Inhofe has been called the climate change “denier in chief.” Inhofe has famously called climate change a “hoax,” and a “conspiracy. Inhofe is not a scientist. So where does he get his information from? In 2012, he cited the Bible as his “proof” that climate change is a fiction.
All of this information about Republican denial of science hit the internet at about the same time the Associated Press released a report about how climate change is affecting the earth. That report reveals that since 1992 there have been over 6,600 major disasters worldwide that have been related to climate and weather. Those disasters have caused an estimated $1.6 trillion in damages, and have killed more than 600,000 people.
Scientists say that not all of those disasters were caused by climate change. However, there has been a noticeable increase in severe weather. From 1983 to 1992 there was an average of 147 climate/weather related disasters each year. Since 2004, that number has jumped to 306 per year.
But hey, we don’t have to worry. The Tea Party says that not only do they not believe that these things are being caused by the actions of humans, they also believe that they have a good understanding of what is going on. So, now that they have control in Washington, what could possibly go wrong?
Image courtesy: ThreeStooges.net