Fighting regulations designed to limit climate change could be the next big cause among hard-line Republicans, according to a new study.
Widespread conservative outrage will likely be triggered by an assortment of regulations being prepared by President Obama's administration, through the Environmental Protection Agency, to impose greenhouse gas controls for power plants, the study said. Some members of Congress and business interests argue that these regulations would badly hurt the coal industry and cost thousands of jobs.
The study by Democracy Corps, a Democrat-leaning research organization, found that, "Climate change is poised to replace health care reform among Republicans [as a central issue], with the very same dynamics already in evidence. But that also could further isolate and divide Republicans, too."
"Evangelicals and tea party Republicans share and are consumed by skepticism about climate science – to the point where they mistrust scientists before they begin to speak," the survey found. These constituencies, which dominate the GOP, strongly oppose "the big government and regulations that inevitably result from climate science," Democracy Corps said.
"Tea party Republicans, in particular, are concerned that climate science is another way to force regulations on individuals and businesses," the study added. "And they fear the subsequent costs – both to consumers and taxpayers."
Republican moderates, however, have a different view. "Moderates are more apt to accept the science – and respond more positively to science in general," the survey found.
"... Although some are doubtful about climate change, they do not reject science offhand, but rather say they simply do not know enough to know who to believe. And while moderates reject high taxes and over-regulation, many do accept that climate is one area where government ought to do more."
The survey was based on six focus groups conducted recently among Republicans in Raleigh, N.C.; Roanoke, Va.; and Colorado Springs, Colo.
In a related development, Reuters reports that Heather Zichal is stepping down as Obama's chief energy and climate adviser to work in the private sector. No successor has been named but White House officials say there will be no reduction in Obama's commitment to fighting climate change.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.