It’s been called the “rich idiot” effect. The occurrence describes how whenever a conservative Republican becomes wealthier, the more secure they become in their climate denial. The journal Climate Change published a study exploring the phenomenon, and the evidence suggests that more money makes Republicans stupider.
According to the study, Mother Jones reported, “among Republicans, as levels of income increase, so does their likelihood of ‘dismissing the dangers associated with climate change.’” And as for Democrats and independents, the amount of wealth possessed by either had little or no effect on their opinions about climate change.
Based off of pre-existing data compiled by the General Social Survey in 2010, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign discovered that when asked if “the world’s temperature caused by climate change is extremely dangerous for the environment, very dangerous, somewhat dangerous, not very dangerous, or not dangerous at all for the environment,” those Republicans with increased income were prone to answer “not very dangerous” or “not dangerous at all.”
Republicans at the lowest income level had the lowest probability dismissing climate change’s actual danger, 17.7 percent. However, Republicans at the highest income level possessed a 51.1 probability of reacting dismissively to climate change’s actual danger.
“At the bottom quintile of income, Republicans are not significantly different from either Independents or Democrats,” concluded the study.
Researcher think this influence of money on climate denial has to do with wealth’s association to political awareness. Basically, they become more aware of their party’s politics which leads to them falling more in line with those within that party. It’s like money-fueled groupthink.
If the study shows us one thing, it’s the Republicans truly let money do the thinking for them. This doesn’t just allude to climate change, but where they stand on corporate rights, financial regulation, the list goes on. This study focuses on climate change, but it seems safe to say that it could possibly apply to the other aspects of conservative Republican fervor.
Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.