Poll Finds GOP Generation Gap on Climate Change

Musician Kyle Tigges holds up his guitar during the Climate Strike march in New York City on Sept. 20, 2019. (Adam Klasfeld/CNS)

(CN) – In a new poll showing most Americans believe the federal government is not doing enough to combat climate change, Democrats have widespread consensus on the issue while Republicans are split along generational, gender and ideological lines.

Two-thirds of the 3,627 U.S. adults polled by Pew Research Center between Oct. 1 and 13 agreed that the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of global climate change and protect air and water quality.

But views diverge widely when only political party affiliation is taken into consideration. Nine in 10 respondents who described themselves as Democrats or as leaning Democrat said the federal government isn’t doing enough on climate change, compared to 39% of Republican and Republican-leaning respondents who said the same.

The survey released Monday also breaks down responses by gender, age and ideology. While Democrats share a consensus on climate change across the board, Republican responses varied along demographic lines.

Of moderate and liberal Republicans, including independents who tend to agree with the GOP, 65% agree that the government is doing too little to fight climate change, a much greater proportion than the 24% of conservative Republicans who felt the same.

Generational differences were striking: 31% of Republicans who are baby boomers or older agreed with the claim, compared to 41% of Generation X respondents and 52% of millennials and zoomers, a name given to members of Generation Z. The data shows younger Republicans seem more eager to take federal action on the climate crisis than their older peers are, suggesting a generational split on environmental policy within the GOP.

Additionally, Republican women were notably more supportive of the federal government taking action (46%) than Republican men (34%).

Political differences aside, Pew researchers found that Americans have been changing their behavior to keep from harming the environment. Four-fifths of respondents say they have been reducing their food waste, and 72% say they use fewer single-use plastics. Sixty-eight percent said they have reduced the amount of water they use, while just over half are driving less or carpooling. A 41% minority said they have begun eating less meat to reduce their carbon footprint.

A mere 11% of U.S. adults polled said they “not at all” or “not too often” try to live in an environmentally conscious manner. But 32% of boomers and older Americans say they try to live environmentally consciously “all the time,” compared to the 18% of millenial and Generation Z adults who said the same.

When it comes to energy use, Americans broadly agree in favoring more solar panel farms (92%) and more wind turbine farms (85%), whereas opinions become more divided when it comes to nuclear power plants (49%), offshore oil and gas drilling (42%), fracking (38%) and coal mining (35%).

The poll’s margin of error is 2.1%, Pew said. The data was collected from Pew’s American Trends Panel, whose 10,000-plus active participants provide the “principal source of data for U.S. public opinion research,” according to the nonpartisan research organization.

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