The real split in global warming politics: Young vs old

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

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.

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  1. Amy Scanlon

    One concept that I believe is extremely useful to understanding American society is the notion that we are a deeply, deeply regional nation and that the real “culture wars” began not with the 1960’s or even the 1860’s but go back to the 17th century and were largely imported from Britain. This is true not despite, but somewhat because we are an immigrant country, in which only about 20% of all Americans are of British ancestry (and where it was barely a majority even at the time of the Revolution). Basically immigrant societies are particular susceptible to “First Settler Effects” and “Colonial Cultural Conservatism”.

    While I absolutely believe that immigrants and young people are more open to global warming some of the regional differences in how many people accept global warming is a problem, and what solutions they would tend to lean to are absolutely predictable to anyone familiar with the tome “Albion’s Seed” by David Hackett Fischer.

    Also you really see some very old patterns on where you tend to see progressive vs. populist movements, patterns of support or opposition to various wars (hint the patterns of support opposition during the French Indian War were almost unchanged with the Vietnam War-and that map didn’t look too different from the one dividing the Union from the Confederacy in between), support/opposition to feminism, and even crime and teen pregnancy rates that go back to colonial times. You’ll also see how people misread the political landscape by relentlessly conflating one of the four cultures groups with “the white working class” and why Obama’s so-called “white working class” problem was a major problem in some areas, but failed to materialize in others.

    January 31, 2013