A great Washington Wire column in the Wall Street Journal quantifies the true political split on the queston of global warming. It's not Republican vs. Democrat. It's old versus young. In the words of pollster Dante Chinni:
While politicians and the media tend to focus on the Democratic/Republican divide on the issue, the real split is evidenced in other ways – the urban/rural divide, the education divide and, crucially, the age divide. And when you add all those differences together and look at it through geography, you see glaring differences in how various places understand the issue.
It's necessary to read the whole column (and look at the charts) to understand Chinni's point in any depth. But here's a start:
The two biggest supporters of man-made climate change are the Immigration Nation (light blue on the map below) and Campus and Career (green) counties. Those places don’t share a lot of commonalities. There are big differences in income and education levels. But they have one common trait – they are younger than other places.
In both of those county types roughly 50% of the population is under 34 years of age – it’s actually slightly more than 50% in Immigration Nation. In most of the county types that figure is 45% or less. And both Campus and Careers and Immigration Nation counties have fewer people over 65, about 11%. Nationally that figure is 13%.
What does that mean? It indicates that while there are a variety of factors that go into people’s attitudes on global warming, age is profoundly important. In reporting in Campus communities in particular, Politics Counts has found environmentalism is held out as one issue where most all students agree. Liberal and conservative. Democrat and Republican.
If those young people hold on to those beliefs as they age, it has big implications for the global-warming debate in the coming years. As pollsters like to say, the numbers above represent a “snapshot in time.” While the divide in the chart above is stark, it may not always be.
In other words, Chinni hints, if the GOP doesn't change its position to reflect the viewpoint of young people, they stand to lose a generation on this issue.
Fascinating to yours truly that no demographic group is more concerned about global warming than immigrants. Could this reflect experience learned south of the border? Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton researched this a couple of years ago, and believed the answer was yes.