Tipping, clinking wine glasses and a toast of “Cheers!” signaled the satisfaction at a climate science contrarians website over a recent Pew Research Center national survey finding fewer Americans see “solid evidence” of climate change as a serious issue.

Those perplexed that the public opinion seems not to reflect the growing body of scientific evidence on the issue were of course less inclined to see the survey results as a reason to celebrate.

“A sharp decline over the past year” is how the Pew Research Center for the People & The Press announced the findings of its September 30-October 4 telephone survey of 1,500 America adults. The group says 35 percent, as opposed to 44 percent in April 2008, now think of global warming as a “very serious problem.” The drop-off in those saying that human combustion of fossil fuels is causing global temperatures to rise follows a similar pattern.

Political independents account for much of the fall-off, according to the Pew statement, which points to 53 percent of independents – as opposed to 75 percent in April 2008 – now seeing “solid evidence” of global warming. Fewer Republicans – 35 percent now compared with 49 percent in April 2008 – see that “solid evidence.” For Democrats, the numbers are 75 percent now, compared with 83 percent in 2008.

The Wall Street Journal‘s online Environmental Capital quoted Pew Research Center president Andrew Kohut as saying he was surprised by the decline in the percentage of respondents who see solid evidence of global warming. The Journal‘s Stephen Power reported that Kohut said Americans have made environmental issues a lower priority since the onset of the recession.

Overall, Kohut told the newspaper, most Americans “want to do something” about climate change, “but it’s not as sharp as it would be in a different economic climate.”

The accompanying charts are reprinted from the Pew Center’s website.