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Gallup poll shows partisan gap over global warming widened in 2018

A new poll conducted by Gallup Inc. found that, compared with the prior year's survey, the partisan divide in the U.S. on global warming is widening in some areas, but fewer people believe such warming is occurring.

Gallop in early March 2018 conducted phone interviews with more than 1,000 adults in the U.S. and found that, compared to a survey conducted the previous year, fewer Republicans believe in global warming. While more than half of the Republicans surveyed in 2017 said they believe in global warming, only 42% said they do in the latest survey, while the percentage of Democrats who believe in it has stayed at 86%.

When politics are not factored into the totals, the survey shows that about 66% of those surveyed think global warming is occurring, down from 71% in 2017. But both political parties saw an uptick in the percentage of people who believe global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetime, with 4% more Republicans and 9% more Democrats holding that view in 2018 compared with a year earlier. The political divide on this issue is also stark; 91% of Democrats and 33% of Republicans say they worry a great deal or fair amount about global warming, but 67% of Republicans worry only a little or not at all.

Nevertheless, the majority of Republican views on climate change reflect those held by the GOP and many members of the Trump administration's cabinet. Trump has called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese and pledged to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change. His administration has also removed most references to climate change from government websites and dropped climate change from its list of national security threats.

The Trump administration has also rolled back environmental regulations in the name of promoting American energy resources. And while most members of Trump's cabinet say they believe in the existence of climate change and that humans have contributed to it, they contend the science is unclear on the extent to which humans are to blame.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt in a February 2018 interview with a Las Vegas television station echoed those points but also went on to suggest global warming may not be so bad.

"Is it an existential threat? Is it something that is unsustainable, or what kind of effect or harm is this going to have? I mean, we know that humans have most flourished during times of what? Warming trends," Pruitt said. "I think there's assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing. Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100? In the year 2018? I mean it's fairly arrogant for us to think that we know exactly what it should be in 2100."

Most scientists, including at NASA, characterize global warming as a component of climate change although people and politicians sometimes mistakenly describe the two interchangeably. Climate change refers to a broad range of global phenomena such as the loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise, and longer, more intense heat waves, according to NASA.