Gallup poll shows global-warming fears losing steam

posted at 10:12 am on March 14, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Or maybe the results from Gallup’s latest poll are all part of a natural cycle.  Every seven years or so, the bottom appears to fall out of the global-warming market.  In 2000, for instance, 72% of Gallup responders said they worried a great deal or fair amount about global warming, a peak result over the last 22 years Gallup has polled on the question.  In 2004, that number plunged to 51%, after a relatively mild recession had people worrying more about their pocketbooks.  In 2008, the number rose again to a decade-long peak of 66% as America searched for a President whose mere visage would force the oceans to retreat and the Earth to cool.

Three years later, after America’s worst post-war recession, we’re suddenly back to being practical:

Americans continue to express less concern about global warming than they have in the past, with 51% saying they worry a great deal or fair amount about the problem — although attitudes appear to have stabilized compared with last year. That current level of worry compares with 66% just three years ago, and is only one percentage point higher than the low Gallup measured in 1997. ….

While Americans’ self-professed understanding of global warming has increased over time — from 69% saying they understand the issue “very well” or “fairly well” in 2001, to 74% in 2006 and 80% in the current poll — their concern about global warming across several measures is generally in the lower range of what Gallup has found historically.

Its other measures in the poll show a rather nuanced picture.  The number of people who believe the global warming issue has been exaggerated actually declined since last year, from 48% to 43% this year, which is still higher than any other time in the past ten years.  The number of people saying that AGW has been underestimated rose from 25% to 29%, still well below the 38% in 2006.

However, the number of people who believe that AGW has already begun fell to 49%, the first time since 1998 that it has gone below a majority level.  Absolute skepticism — those who say AGW will never happen — has risen over the last few years, coming in at 18%, slightly down from last year’s 19%.  A majority still believe that pollution is the major cause of higher temperatures, but at 52% that’s just slightly higher than last year’s series low of 50%, and well below the 58%-61% range that Gallup found from 2003 through 2009.  Those who believe that higher temperatures come from natural cycles peaked last year at 46% and fell back a bit this year to 43%, still well above the 33%-38% range of 2003-2008.

The cycle shows that global-warming hysteria is a hobby for those enjoying a fat economy.  When times get lean, people want energy at low cost and a focus on jobs rather than expanded regulation.  Voters tend to discover their inner skeptics when the bills mount and the revenue drops.

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