The GOP presidential contenders are out of touch with the science -- and with their constituents

A strong majority of Americans in Texas and Florida believe that man-made climate change is happening

Published April 15, 2015 4:55PM (EDT)

  (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

We've got three contenders for the Republican nomination for the presidency so far, and so far, all three contend that man-made climate change is not happening.

Their constituents, on the other hand, aren't nearly as certain.

Researchers at the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, who recently came out with our most detailed look yet at people's opinions about global warming on the state and local level, just released a new analysis of how those opinions compare to those voiced, on the record, by the senators representing their state. The data raises some questions about who, exactly, these elected officials are speaking for.

Sen. Rand Paul, for instance, in January voted against a measure affirming that climate change is real and significantly influenced by human activity (he mostly has a problem with that second part). In Kentucky, however, his constituency doesn't quite agree: 48 percent of people, according to the Yale data, believe either that climate change is not happening or that it's the result of natural causes. A slightly larger 49 percent, on the other hand, believe that it is happening, and that humans are at least partly responsible.

The divide is even starker in Texas, where 55 percent of people are willing to ascribe partial responsibility for climate change to human activity (43 percent are not). Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who won't even accept that the planet is warming, has called such believers "the equivalent of the flat-Earthers."

But it's Sen. Marco Rubio, as Chris Mooney points out at the Washington Post, who's the most out of touch with his constituents: 56 percent of Floridians agree that man-made warming is a thing, while just 42 percent do not -- a 14-point difference.

That makes sense, because if there's any place where people might be persuaded to accept the scientific evidence, it's Florida, where the consequences of climate change are already taking effect. That doesn't necessarily mean the state's leaders are going to get onboard, as we learned from Gov. Rick Scott's attempts to ban any talk of climate change or global warming by government officials, but it's more evidence of just how removed from reality they are.

And it may work against them on the national level, because in 43 out of 50 states, more people say global warming is caused by humans than do not. Climate deniers only have the majority in the three states -- Wyoming, West Virginia and Alabama -- and in each case, it's a very small split.

By Lindsay Abrams

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2016 Elections Climate Deniers Marco Rubio Rand Paul Ted Cruz