It’s Easier To Sail That River in Egypt

This corresponds with my own experiences and observations:

This implies that if the tables were turned — if Republican politicians proposed a climate policy — Republican voters might support it. In our research, that is exactly what we have found.

In one study, we asked Democrats, Republicans and independents to consider one of two carbon-pricing policies: a national cap-and-trade program and a national revenue-neutral carbon tax. But we varied the information we gave about political support for the policies, sometimes saying that a policy was backed by Democratic members of Congress, and sometimes saying that it was backed by Republican members.

In a similar study, we asked Democrats, Republicans and independents in Washington State to consider a carbon tax that was on the ballot in their state in 2016. There, we mentioned either liberal Democrats (like the Green Party of Seattle) or conservative Republicans (like the former secretary of state George Shultz) who in fact supported the initiative.

I wouldn’t say that they necessarily do believe in climate change, but rather that they could believe in it, and relatively easily. It would take some leadership that (a) the right’s leaders haven’t been inclined to show and (b) that they have little incentive to show, almost no upside, and quite a bit of downside.

A lot of people have come to where they currently are on the issue because it’s actually an easier posture to say that climate change isn’t real – or is in serious doubt – than to agree that it is real but disagree on what and how much should be done about it which ends up categorizing you with the doubters anyway.

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31 thoughts on “It’s Easier To Sail That River in Egypt

  1. Political disagreement was substantially smaller when it came to Republican-backed policies.

    In particular, there was very little distance between Republicans and Democrats when evaluating a Republican-proposed carbon tax.

    That’s an interesting one there – BSdon’texactlyDI. It’s almost like the people whose views on climate change policy are based on science just happen to be mostly Democrats already, because the Republican stance has driven them away…

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      • That quote of mine is from the piece itself. Unless there’s a further link I should have followed to reach the true “piece”.

        I mean, yes, there are some tribal affiliations as you observe, but the differences of opinion, at least w.r.t. carbon taxation, appear to be more strongly associated among Democrats with the actual policy and among Republicans with its perceived sponsor.

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        • Your quote is from the piece, but so is this one:

          We found, in both studies, that our participants toed the party line. Republicans supported climate policies that they understood to be backed by Republicans and were neutral toward policies backed by Democrats. Democrats supported policies that they understood to be backed by Democrats more than they supported policies backed by Republicans.

          In other words, the same effect occurred with both sides. The paragraph you cite mathematically suggests that the effect might stronger on the R side, but not that only one side was susceptible.

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          • The thing is, within limits, such tribalism is rational. If asked about a topic I am not qualified to evaluate personally, then relying on who I have in the past found to be more trustworthy is perfectly sensible.

            This only goes so far, of course. If believe in the overtly ridiculous becomes a shibboleth, then matters have progress past the point of sensibility. I fondly recall back when some astounding percentage of Republicans professed the belief that Obama was not born in the US. The issue was that while he had released his birth certificate long before, he had not released it a sufficient number of times. So he released it again and the percentage of Republicans professing this belief dropped to about half. The other half muttered about how it was all his fault for not having released his birth certificate enough times before then, and then they went about their business.

            There is a lot of space short of this point, however, where “I don’t know much about this subject, but this person whose opinion I respect says such and such, so I will tentatively go with that” is the rational answer. We can all be expert in all things, after all.

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    • Is it? Seems somewhat circular to me… favored policy is favored.

      Rather than running the same study twice, it might have been more interesting if the second study had packaged a European Styled First Trimester (12-week) Abortion policy sponsored by democratic legislators and see what happens there.

      Or possibly packaging up current Gun Laws as a Democratic/Republican sponsored “New” law and see what that looks like.

      Or any such thing which might show that support for policies is both partisan and malleable depending on who is proposing what.

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      • I suspect you’d see more swing around gun laws depending on who’s supposedly sponsoring the bill (particularly where the status quo is presented as “new” – so any differences of opinion would be around perception of who’s proposing the measure, and therefore which way they’re presumably trying to move the ball).

        On abortion, I doubt the partisan effect would be nearly as strong. I’d be interested to see such a study whether I turn out to have guessed wrong or right there…

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        • Your comment is so meta. Who exactly is trying to “own the libs?” ‘s posted two links. One to a straight news piece that gives factual information about European abortion laws and the other to an explainer of sorts that explicitly says “it’s both easier and harder to get an abortion in Europe;” that’s the title of the piece.

          Is the conservative trying to own the libs in this case?

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  2. I wonder if it’s partly a matter of trust. Conservatives trust that, e.g., a GOP bill for climate change isn’t going to sneak in some extra authority to the EPA to mess with ranchers in WY or MT. Or a Democrat bill on Gun Rights isn’t going to include a giveaway to the NRA.

    Etc.

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    • That’s what I was thinking too. Since none of us in radioland, let alone the CCers themselves (usually), ever read the legislation we’re all supposed to support/not-support, we rely on the big political-institutional structures which write and review that legislation. And I’d trust *my* team’s analysts, staffers, bill-writers, etc to do a better job of it than *your* teams, otherwise I wouldn’t be on the team I’m on. So if the GOP proposed a carbon tax to address rising sea levels caused by climate change I wouldn’t trust it as far as I could throw a 6000 page bill. It’d contain a massive tax cut for the rich, a cut to medicaid funding, and a carve out for the biggest polluters. I’ve been around this block before. I *know* how Ryan and McConnell operate. :)

      Add: which is longwinded way of saying we ALL think politicians lie and slip ridiculous stuff into big bills, but we tend to accept the shenanigans from our side as less disastrous.

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        • Paul Ryan: “A tax cut so big it puts money[1] in the pocket of every hard working[2] American.”

          Footnote 1: Eg., CBO projects a tax reduction of $1.32/week for a grade school teacher in Pennsylvania, which is nothing to sneeze at since tissues cost more than that. See footnote [2] for an information regarding grade school teachers’ qualifications for receiving the tax cut.

          Footnote 2: For the purposes of Speaker Ryan’s statement, “hard working” does not mean “recipient of income”. GOP internal policy and legislation originating therefrom should be understood as not recognizing mere employment as satisfying the conditions for being a hard worker. For the purposes of this section, “hard working” shall be generally understood to mean “dividend receiving”.

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          • How people talk about taxes is so strange. Complaining that any specific tax cut benefits the rich is just another way of saying that the tax code is progressive and that the rich pay most of the tax. That’s not me trying to stump for the rich; that’s just an empirical fact. And quite frankly, I think that we should have a progressive tax system. But again, that means that changes in the tax rate will invariably effect the wealthy more than everyone else.

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            • That’s all very true, but it sort of makes the rhetoric, “Putting money in the pockets of all hard-working Americans” false enough to call out, doesn’t it?

              I mean, if they want to say that high income people pay too much in taxes and they should pay less and cut public services for everybody to balance it out, I’d be happy to let them speak for themselves. It’s not a “wrong” position on its face. It’s a matter of preference and philosophy. It’s just that they’re trying to do B while claiming they’re really all about A.

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              • That’s all very true, but it sort of makes the rhetoric, “Putting money in the pockets of all hard-working Americans” false enough to call out, doesn’t it?

                Of course it’s false. That’s the problem with how we talk about taxes: it incentives all parties to say dumb but popular things. Mitt Romney made a plain, factually true statement about corporate tax incidence and it might have been the biggest gaffe of his campaign.

                I agree with j r that the way we talk about taxes is weird, but for a slightly different reason. 76% of Americans favor higher taxes on the wealthy.

                Part of this is because people tend to define “the wealthy” as anyone with more money than themselves. Also, it would be interesting to compare people’s opinions on tax rates with their factual knowledge of income distribution and actual taxes paid. Generally, I think it would be interesting to know more about how much people over or under-estimate the progressiveness of our tax structure.

                So I find it puzzling that candidates don’t just say, right out loud, “I favor higher taxes on the wealthy.” Seems like a winning issue.

                All the talk about rich donating to politicians to keep their taxes low is interesting, but I don’t think that it’s quite right. The most effective way that rich people game the tax system is not on the front end, by trying to influence tax rates; it’s on the back end, by negotiating endless loopholes and tax credits.

                And part of the reason that the back end of the tax system can be gamed so thoroughly and aggressively is because politicians spend most of their time saying dumb but popular things about taxes.

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                • Along the same “stupid things” topic, I think that the left’s rhetoric about making the rich pay “their fair share” is also corrosive to public understanding. Yes, many rich people get huge loopholes that allow them to pay a lower rate than they otherwise would, and that’s usually a bad thing.

                  But it gives the false impression that the rich don’t pay a higher rate on average, which is wrong. And it also suggests that taxes on the “rich” aren’t more or less carrying the spending for the rest of the country.

                  I happen to think that’s a pretty good way of arranging things, but we should at least acknowledge the realities of who is paying for what.

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                • The most effective way that rich people game the tax system is not on the front end, by trying to influence tax rates; it’s on the back end, by negotiating endless loopholes and tax credits.

                  It’s pretty clearly both.

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                • …it’s on the back end, by negotiating endless loopholes and tax credits.

                  The most effective loopholes are on the front end, getting money classified as either non-taxable, or taxed as long-term capital gains. For the next few years my wife and I will pay little or no income tax because SS is (for now) non-taxable, and our other income is usually less than the standard deductions/exemptions.

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      • If you are focused in less on the party and more on the people, you can start getting stuff like, for instance, a Gun Control bill written and sponsored by Blue Dog Democrats that gets a lot more rightward traction than something Chuck Schumer tossed together.

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        • That’s my hope for the Dems this cycle: that the candidate abandon the Schumerific nonsense and speak to their constituents about issues which the vast majority of people agree on. That includes things like ACA provision protections and school funding etc – two pretty bog-standard Dem issues. If they can get traction with the independent middle and pull GOPers into supporting some sensible gun leg., that’d be a bonus for sure. It might even help pull the GOP’s head outa its Rump.

          Add: and just to get this off my chest, I want the Dems to win teh House this cycle not to promote Dem legislation but to check the insanity of the GOP. And every time Schumer opens his mouth to make a statement I cringe and envision Dem light/independent voters fleeing from the party by droves. The guy is just a huge liability to the party right now.

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  3. Outsourcing a good deal of your political thinking to the folks who share your point of view and think about these things full time isn’t a terrible heuristic. And considering the kind of shenanigans that mentions above, it probably gets the median voter closer to his or her preferences than trying to figure everything out for themselves. Or at least it would in normal times. Unfortunately, these ain’t normal times.

    I wouldn’t say that they necessarily do believe in climate change, but rather that they could believe in it, and relatively easily.

    Part of the problem here is that how we tend to talk about politics takes a whole spectrum of beliefs on any topic and compresses them into some binary. It’s not quite right just to talk about people believing or not believing in climate change. You get a much better sense of the landscape if you talk about at least four categories of people: climate change catastrophists, climate change believers, climate change skeptics, and climate change deniers. As with most issues, the folks occupying the two middle positions could probably come to some agreement that made them happier than the status quo were it not for the folks on the flanks doing everything in their power to stop any kind of meaningful compromise.

    Things will continue to get worse until that dynamic changes.

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    • Agreed… and I’ll go a counter-intuitive step further and suggest that “solutions” to the problems are sometimes formulated in such a way as to maximize opposition for the benefit of the bi-polarity of the party system. Or, maybe to riff a bit on your idea, it isn’t simply that the extremes control the message its that the message has more value not being addressed than it would have being addressed.

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