What "Climate-gate"? Majority supports cap-and-trade

Despite talk of scandal and hoax connected to global warming, most Americans still want something done

Published December 11, 2009 9:55PM (EST)

Ever since the so-called Climate-gate scandal broke last month, climate change deniers have been getting a lot of press. But this publicity appears not to have affected how people think about global warming. According to an Ipsos/McClatchy Poll released Thursday, most Americans remain skeptical about man’s role in bringing about climate change -- but a slight majority are still in favor of giving one proposed solution, cap-and-trade, a shot.

The Ipsos survey found that while nearly 70 percent of Americans believe that global temperatures are rising, just 43 percent think this change is mostly due to human activity. The other 24 percent think it’s primarily caused by natural patterns. Unsurprisingly, these views differ markedly across party lines: 58 percent of Democrats hold that global warming is real and caused by humans, but 43 percent of Republicans don’t think that world temperatures have increased at all.

Despite the recent hysteria about an alleged global climate hoax, these statistics are pretty much in line with the results of other recent surveys. Back in October, a Pew Research poll found that just 57 percent of U.S. citizens believe there is "solid evidence" that the earth is warming; 36 percent thought the climate change was due to human activity. (The somewhat lower numbers for the Pew poll are likely due to differences in wording: Pew Research asked people if they thought there was "solid evidence" for global warming while Ipsos asked respondents whether they believed an increase in world temperatures "has probably been happening.")

Regardless of the skepticism about the idea that human actions are causing climate change, 52 percent of Americans still favor a cap-and-trade program aimed at decreasing the pollution levels that result in global warming. Support for this legislation also appears largely unchanged. Although a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey in October found that 60 percent of Americans backed a cap-and-trade program, the October Pew poll and an August Washington Post-ABC News poll put that number at 50 and 52 percent, respectively.

According to the latest Ipsos survey, support for the cap-and-trade proposal goes up dramatically when linked with the prospect of increasing jobs in the United States: 69 percent of respondents would support such a bill if it raised their monthly electrical bill by $10 but also created a significant number of “green” jobs. And 60 percent would still support such a law if it increased their monthly cost by $25, as long as it also would generate a substantial number of jobs.

These survey results may be encouraging for the Democrats as they try to push their climate change bill through the Senate. But popular support is no guarantee that legislation will get passed. After all, 56 percent of Americans still support the public option.

By Emily Holleman

Emily Holleman is the editor of Open Salon.

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