Climate Change Poll

I had a very interesting experience in a jury trial recently.  One of the lawyers in the case asked the jury panel during jury selection whether they believed climate change was real or a hoax.  This is a highly unusual question, but how a juror answers is revealing.  To my surprise, about 2/3 of the 72 member panel said they believe climate change is real.  I was surprised because Brazos County is known to be heavily Republican and, among Republicans nationwide, only 39% believe the federal government is not doing enough to address climate change.  On this key issue, the contrast between Republicans and Democrats could not be more stark.  Based upon a Pew Research Center poll just taken and reported, 78% of Democrats see climate change as the top policy priority in 2020 whereas only 25% of Republicans see it as such.   


My very unscientific experience with a Brazos County jury may have had something to do with the jurors’ educational backgrounds.  It seemed to me based on juror questionnaires, that the jurors had an unusually high level of educational attainment and many of them were employed by TAMU.  Maybe this group is not so ready to simply dismiss scientific evidence out of hand?  But, whatever the reason, the informal poll of the jury panel roughly coincided with the Pew poll which found 67% of all adults think the government is not doing enough.  Overall, the percentage of Americans who believe climate change should be a top priority has increased by 14% over the last 4 years, but almost all of that increase is due to Democrats.  Republican support has remained about the same.  Why? 

Riley Dunlap, a professor emeritus who studies trends in public opinion on environmental topics, was quoted in The New York Times of 2/21/20 as saying that political messaging from party leaders and the media is to blame for the divide.  “Intense partisan polarization over these issues has been growing for decades.  Voters take cues on their policy preferences and overall positions.  President Trump has, in the past, called climate change a hoax and all that.  You get a similar message from many members of Congress on the Republican side.  And most importantly, it’s the message you get from the conservative media.” 

As I interpret what Mr. Riley is saying, unless and until Trump gives his permission to believe in climate change and to do something about it, it is highly likely Republicans will stay exactly where they are – and that’s bad for the planet. 

Nevertheless, on one day in February 2020, in Brazos County, Texas, about 2/3 of 72 people randomly called for jury service said they didn’t believe climate change is a hoax.  That’s not enough, but it is encouraging.