Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

October 23, 2013

Making Republicans pay a price for climate science denialism

Is it possible to make GOP lawmakers pay a political price for throwing in with the climate science deniers? The League of Conservation Voters is engaged in an interesting experiment designed to answer that question, running ads targeting Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and a handful of House GOP lawmakers over their climate denialism.

The group’s operating theory: Denying what science says about threats to the fate of the planet should perhaps be, you know, a tiny bit politically problematic. Republican lawmakers pay a steep price for outsized claims about abortion or immigration. Why not about something as consequential as climate change?

Now the group has done a new poll that, it says, underscores that drawing attention to a public official’s climate science denialism does erode his or her public image. The group polled on Johnson in the Green Bay, Wisc., media market — a swing area where its ads ran — before and after the ad buy. According to the memo:

“52 percent of constituents who definitely recall the ads volunteer unfavorable impressions of Ron Johnson and his record in an open-ended (unprompted) question format, and most of the concerns they express relate directly to the content of the ads.”

The memo also reports a 14-point increase in those who feel less favorable towards Johnson based on what they have heard about him; an eight point increase in his job disapproval; and an eight point boost in constituents believing Johnson is out of step on climate change.

“Denying climate change science is something that, when you put it in front of voters, they stand up and take notice,” top Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who did the survey for the LCV, said. “We’re finding that when voters hear about an elected official denying basic climate science, it is consequential in the way they think about that person, both in terms of the issue itself, and in terms of larger conclusions voters draw about whether that official thinks the way they do.”

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