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UMD-Washington Post Poll Sheds Light on Partisan Perception of Climate Change

By Rachael Grahame ’17

A summer marked by wildfires, polluted air, heat waves and other extreme weather couldn’t bridge the wide partisan divide on climate change, according to a new University of Maryland poll with The Washington Post.

When asked about the last five years, nearly three-fourths of the poll’s 1,404 adult respondents said that their area has experienced extremely hot days, while roughly four in 10 attested to severe storms, flooding, droughts and water shortages, or smoke from wildfires. Nearly a third reported in the July 13-23 poll that their area has suffered wildfires firsthand.

Partisan differences were stark, with Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents 23 percentage points more likely to report experiencing extremely hot days than Republicans and Republican leaners, and 21 points more likely to report experiencing severe storms such as hurricanes. In a separate question, Democrats and leaners were also 50 percentage points more likely to call climate change a major factor in extremely hot days, 49 more points more likely to say it’s a major factor in severe storms and 47 points more likely to say the same for droughts and wildfires.

Among the Republicans who reported experiencing all kinds of extreme weather events in their area in the last five years, between 21% and 31% said climate change is “not a factor” at all.

“It is hard to be surprised by partisan differences these days. But the partisan gaps, even among those who have experienced extreme weather in their area, are staggering,” said Michael Hanmer, a professor of government and politics and director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement, which co-sponsored the poll.

The poll also found that 57% of Americans disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of climate change—and that a still greater majority (71%) have heard only a little or nothing at all about the president’s Inflation Reduction Act, which provides Americans with multiple climate-friendly incentives like tax credits for installing solar panels, manufacturing solar panels and wind turbines, buying heat pumps, and driving electric vehicles.

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