Only 72% of Americans believe global warming is happening, down from 80% just a year ago, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The increased skepticism is derived mainly by people describing themselves as Republicans and independents.
Three years ago, 76% of Republican voters believed the phenomenon was real, but that has dropped to just 54% now.
The tail-off among independents was from 86% to 71%. Among democrats, the dip was from 92% to 86%.
Despite these evolving trends, a slight majority, 53% of respondents still support legislation that would cap emissions and institute trade pollution allowances. A similar number, 55% believe the US should cut carbon emissions regardless of whether developing countries like China and India choose to do so.
The increasing political divide on the issue is surfacing just as President Obama and congressional Democrats have stepped up efforts to enact new climate legislation and at least make a credible presence at next week’s global summit on the matter in Copenhagen.
“It’s a sad state of affairs when science becomes subject to partisan politics,” Democratic pollster Mark Mellman told the Washington Post. “It can only be attributed to the sense that this issue has become part of a political battle.”
Amanda Feinberg, a retired secretary who lives in South Williamsport, Pa., told the Post she began changing her views on global warming shortly after Al Gore released his movie documentary on the subject, “An Inconvenient Truth.”
“He just seemed a little radical in his views,” said Feinberg, a Republican. “I don’t deny it’s happening, I just think it’s just an evolution of nature.”
Another Republican respondent, Lisa Woolcott doubted whether Americans would support policies that raised energy prices amid the current recession.
“I don’t think the public’s going to back it,” she said. “It’s all they can do to pay their electric bill and put gas in their cars. It’s like, let’s get through Thanksgiving and Christmas.”