Republican presidential debates and a rise in the number of natural disasters are influencing more Americans to believe that the world is warming, a Reuters/Ipsos poll said on Thursday.
The percentage of Americans who believe in global warming rose to 83 percent in 2011, from last year's 75 percent, the poll conducted Sept. 8-12 found out.
With the exception of Jon Huntsman, Republican presidential candidates have been denying the idea of the Earth's rising temperature. Texas Governor Rick Perry alleged that scientists were manipulating climate data while his fellow Republican Michele Bachmann said climate change was a hoax.
As Americans watch Republicans debate the issue, they are forced to mull over what they think about global warming, said Jon Krosnick, a political science professor at Stanford University.
That is exactly the kind of situation that will provoke the public to think about the issue in a way that they haven't before, Krosnick said about news reports on the Republicans denying climate change, according to a Reuters report.
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Rise in the number of natural disasters including the Hurricane Irene, coupled with scientists' warning linking extreme weather to global warming has been a factor raising people's concern. The U.S. faced 10 natural disasters in 2011 which incurred an economic loss of more than $1 billion, a National Weather Service report says.
The poll also found out that there is a higher degree of consensus between Democrat and Republican supporters when it comes to global warming, in contrast with their opposing views about healthcare, government deficit and debt.
Around 72 percent of Republicans believe global warming is happening while the Democrat figure is 92 percent.
Global warming could be an important issue in next year's election, because some 15 percent of voters see it as their primary concern, said Krosnick, who is also a university fellow at the Resources for the Future think tank.
If President Barack Obama, a Democrat, could define himself as the environmental candidate, he could have a large advantage over a Republican, Krosnick said. However, if in case a Republican softens stance to be more neutral or supportive of global warming, it may cease to matter in the election.
Around 71 percent of the Americans, who believe warming is happening, think that it is caused either partly or mostly by humans, while 27 percent believe it is the result of natural causes, the poll said.
The Republican debates also have a 'cementing' effect on the global warming skeptics, the poll results show. The skeptics are becoming increasingly certain that global warming is not happening. In 2010, the certainty of skeptics was 35 percent while it was 53 percent in 2011.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,134 adults, including 932 registered voters, had a margin of error of 3 percentage points for all respondents and 3.1 points for registered voters.