Three-quarters of Americans now accept the scientific consensus on climate change, the highest level in four years of surveys conducted by the University of Texas at Austin. The biggest shocker is what’s happening inside the GOP. In a remarkable turnabout, 59 percent of Republicans now say climate change is happening, up from 47 percent just six months ago.
When public opinion shifts this much in a single survey, a bit of skepticism is justified. (You can take a look at the methodology here.) Yet these results are precisely in line with a separate survey published this month by the University of Michigan, which found that 56 percent of Republicans believe there’s solid evidence to support global warming, up from 47 percent a year ago. The Michigan poll also found bipartisan agreement with climate science at the highest level since 2008.
The changing views by Republicans could strand some of the leading presidential candidates in an increasingly unpopular position. Many in the party reject mainstream climate science, and not just at the margins. Republican leaders including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top presidential contenders Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Marco Rubio all articulate views that would be considered extreme in other countries.1