Study reports the worst climate deniers: Rich Republicans

And the possible reasons why are not surprising

Published July 10, 2014 10:30PM (EDT)

The Koch brothers
The Koch brothers

A new study, published in the journal Climate Change, found a strong correlation between Republicans' abundance of wealth and dismissal of climate change.

The study, by Jeremiah Bohr at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that "increased income predicts a higher probability of dismissing climate dangers among Republican-leaning individuals when compared with Independents and Democrats," according to the study's abstract. (On the flip side, as wealth increased for Democrats, the probability that they would rank climate change as the most important issue in the U.S. also increased.)

For the study, Bohr examined data from the 28th round of the General Social Survey, which happened in 2010. The General Social Survey is -- with the exception of the U.S. Census -- the source of data most frequently looked at by social scientists. It contains "core" attitudinal and demographic queries along with special interest questions.

In 2010, the survey asked, "In general, do you think that a rise in the world's temperature caused by climate change is extremely dangerous for the environment, very dangerous, somewhat dangerous, not very dangerous, or not dangerous at all for the environment?"

Mother Jones explains how Bohr interpreted the data gleaned from this question:

"Bohr looked specifically at those individuals who chose the "not very dangerous" or "not dangerous at all" options. And he found that at the lowest income level, the probability that a Republican would give one of these dismissive answers was only 17.7 percent. But at the highest income level, it was 51.2 percent."

A graph of the data can be found here.

The conclusion? Republicans with low incomes are not much different than Democrats or Independents with the same income, in terms of denying climate change. As income increases, however, Republicans are more likely to deny the dangers of climate change, while Democrats and Independents remain mostly unchanged.

There are a couple reasons why this correlation could be happening, according to Mother Jones, not including eduction, which was a control.

The first possibility is that at a higher income level, GOP folks are more politically aware of their party's values.

Another possibility is that climate denial works hand in hand with economic interests. According to Mother Jones, Bohr writes:

"Among individuals with conservative political orientations, there is a correlation between occupying advantageous positions within industrial economic systems and an unwillingness to acknowledge the risks associated with climate change. Perhaps to validate their economic interests, these individuals are more likely to process information on climate science through political filters that result in denying the risks produced by climate change."

h/t Mother Jones

By Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email

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Climate Change Climate Skeptics Gop Koch Brothers Republican Study Sustainability Wealthy