On Environmental Issues, The GOP is Completely Oblivious to Reality

Peter Daou asks:

For reference, here is the Drudge headline Daou was referring to:

And here is the data on 2010 being the hottest year on record.

To answer Daou’s question: it is extremely absurd, but at the same time, utterly predictable. But the underlying question is why Drudge (and other Republicans) would continue highlighting such stories when all available evidence supports the fact that climate change is real and already having an impact.

For the modern Republican party, particularly when it comes to environmental issues, facts are pesky annoyances that have no bearing on public policy. To explore another example of this, let’s take a peek under the hood of some polling on offshore drilling and the oil spill.

On 3/31-4/1, Rasmussen asked (premium account required) 1,000 likely voters if they were concerned that offshore drilling would cause environmental problems.

As you can see, while 70% of Democrats were at least somewhat concerned, just 31% of Republicans felt the same way. Now, this was before 100+ million gallons of oil (and counting) gushed into the Gulf of Mexico as a direct result of offshore drilling. We now have a current and extremely vivid example of offshore drilling actually causing major environmental problems. Indeed, by nearly all accounts the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the worst environmental disaster in American history. So, how have likely voters, Republican and Democrat alike, adjusted their beliefs in the wake of this disaster?

On 6/27-6/28 Rasmussen asked the same question (premium account required).

An overwhelming majority of Democrats, 84%, were concerned that offshore drilling would cause environmental problems. 54% indicated that they were very concerned:

How about Republicans? While they did move a bit from the previous poll, just 50% of Republicans were concerned that offshore drilling would cause environmental problems. Incredibly, 14% remained ‘not at all concerned.’ If I didn’t know a thing or two about the modern Republican party I would doubt the veracity of these numbers:

How could this be? The fact that offshore drilling causes environmental problems could not possibly be more apparent right now. To make matters worse, 93% of Republicans in this survey said they were following the ‘offshore drilling incident’ closely. While 60% said they were following it very closely, zero percent were not following it all. This means that a decent number of Republicans who are following the news of the ongoing spill are ‘not at all’ or ‘not very’ concerned that offshore drilling will cause environmental problems. If this is not the definition of absolute oblivion, I don’t know what is.

Only one conclusion can be drawn from all of this: when it comes to environmental issues, the Republican party is completely oblivious to reality. Now, to be fair, they aren’t just oblivious to reality on environmental issues. But I’ll leave it to the someone else, perhaps the Democratic party, to make that case.

Update — Via @milesgrant, a piece in The Guardian cites some social science research that may partially explain this phenomenon:

What do people do when confronted with scientific evidence that challenges their pre-existing view? Often they will try to ignore it, intimidate it, buy it off, sue it for libel or reason it away.

The classic paper on the last of those strategies is from Lord, Ross and Lepper in 1979: they took two groups of people, one in favour of the death penalty, the other against it, and then presented each with a piece of scientific evidence that supported their pre-existing view, and a piece that challenged it; murder rates went up or down, for example, after the abolition of capital punishment in a state.

The results were as you might imagine. Each group found extensive methodological holes in the evidence they disagreed with, but ignored the very same holes in the evidence that reinforced their views.

Originally Published at EnviroKnow.

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