Washington’s 7th Congressional District, which covers most of Seattle, Vashon Island and parts of south King and Snohomish counties, edges out California’s 12th (San Francisco) and Oregon’s 3rd (Portland) for the top spot.
Climate change, like every hot-button issue facing the nation, divides Americans along party lines.
Democrats are a lot more likely than Republicans to acknowledge Earth is heating up. But a new study from Yale University reveals that even among Democrats, opinions vary nationwide depending on the region in which people live.
And nowhere is acceptance of global warming more pervasive than in the Seattle area.
Among 435 congressional districts in the United States, Washington’s 7th District ranks No. 1 for acceptance of climate change among Democratic voters. About 93 percent of the ones who live in the district say they think global warming is happening, according to the study.
Washington’s 7th, which covers most of Seattle, Vashon Island and parts of South King and Snohomish counties, edges out California’s 12th (San Francisco) and Oregon’s 3rd (Portland) for the top spot. Nationally, 82 percent of Democrats say global warming is occurring.
Washington’s 7th, represented in U.S. Congress by Pramila Jayapal, is one of the most solidly blue districts in the country. Hillary Clinton won 82 percent of the district’s vote in the 2016 presidential election.
“We are innovating this new statistical technique, giving us the ability to generate these estimates at the state and local levels” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. “This is the first time it’s ever been done for a specific sub-population … like Republicans and Democrats.”
While the strong majority of Democrats everywhere in the U.S. think global warming is real, there’s still a pretty big gap between those who live in Seattle and those in the Deep South.
Alabama and Mississippi make a clean sweep of the 10 lowest-ranking districts for Democratic acknowledgment of climate change. Alabama’s 1st Congressional District, which includes the city of Mobile, has the lowest acceptance of global warming among Democrats, with 68 percent acknowledging the overwhelming scientific evidence that the planet’s temperature is rising.
“Democrats in the Deep South are not as convinced (climate change) is happening, or that it’s human-caused, and they’re not as worried about it,” Leiserowitz said. “That is one of the patterns that really jumped out at me.”
He notes this new data allow us to see for the first time that this variation exists within the party when it comes to thinking about climate change, depending on geography.
“It raises all kinds of interesting questions about communication,” Leiserowitz said. “How much of it is driven by the fact that people in Alabama just generally talk about and hear about climate change far less than do people in Seattle?”
Even so, the way a Seattle Democrat thinks about global warming may still be more in line with a fellow Democrat in Alabama than it would be with a Republican who lives down the block.
In Washington’s 7th District, 60 percent of Republican voters think global warming is happening — a lower percentage than you find among Democrats anywhere in the country. And yet, as low as that number is, it’s still well above average for the GOP. Nationally, half of Republicans think global warming is happening, according to the study.
Could it be that living around all those Seattle liberals has rubbed off a bit on local conservatives? Leiserowitz thinks it might.
“Republicans are more likely to say climate change is real in those places that are heavily Democratic,” he said. “We’re influenced by the social milieu in which we live. A Republican who is surrounded by other Republicans in Alabama — that’s very different than a Republican who’s surrounded by a bunch of latte-sipping liberals in Seattle.”
And the same is true for Democrats who live in heavily Republican areas.
The highest acceptance of global warming among Republicans — 67 percent — is in New York’s 15th Congressional District, located entirely in the Bronx. The Big Apple boasts all of the top 10 congressional districts for Republicans’ acknowledgment of climate change.
The study addresses other opinions about climate change, including whether it is caused mostly by human activities. On that question, Washington’s 7th District is particularly divided. About 79 percent of Democrats say yes, compared with 33 percent of Republicans. Among all the nation’s congressional districts, that represents the fourth-largest gap between Democrats and Republicans.
The data estimates in the study are derived from a statistical analysis of a large national survey data set, along with demographic and geographic population data and political-party registration data from state voter files.
“There is no question that the politics is still, sadly, the lens by which many Americans view the issue of climate change,” Leiserowitz said. “It’s gotten sucked into the larger polarization and gridlock and dysfunction of our national politics.”