A nationally representative survey conducted shortly after the presidential election finds that the number of Americans “very worried” about global warming has reached a record high (19%) since first measured in 2008. A majority of Americans (61%) say they are “very” or “somewhat” worried about the issue – nearly equal to the highest level recorded in 2008 (62%).
Likewise, Americans increasingly view global warming as a threat, according to the study, “Climate Change in the American Mind, November 2016.” Since spring 2015, more Americans think it will harm people in developing countries (65%, +12 points), people in the United States (59%, +10 points), future generations (71%, +8 points), their own family (46%, +5 points) and themselves personally (41%, +5 points).
“Despite the election of a president who has described global warming as a hoax, Americans are increasingly convinced global warming is happening and are more worried about it,” says Leiserowitz, lead research at Yale University, New Haven, Conn. “This indicates that on this issue, there is a growing gap between the views of the American public and the incoming Trump administration.”
Other key findings include:
- Seven in 10 Americans (70%) think global warming is happening, which nearly matches the highest level (71%) recorded in 2008. By contrast, only about one in eight Americans (13%) think global warming is happening – the proportion who are “extremely” or “very” sure global warming is happening (45%) is at its highest level since 2008.
- Over half of Americans (55%) understand that global warming is mostly human caused, which is the highest level since 2008. By contrast, three in 10 (30%) say it is due mostly to natural changes in the environment – the lowest level recorded since 2008.
- Six in 10 Americans (61%) say the issue of global warming is either “extremely” (10%), “very” (17%) or “somewhat” (34%) important to them personally. Four in 10 (39%) say it is either “not too” (22%) or “not at all” (16%) important personally.
- By a 3:1 margin, Americans say that schools should teach children about the causes, consequences and potential solutions to global warming (76% agree vs. 24% who disagree).
“Americans also continue to support climate action, as our recent report on the Politics of Global Warming found,” says Edward Maibach, co-lead investigator of George Mason University, Fairfax, Va. “Americans across party lines support participating in the Paris international agreement, limiting carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants and using regulations and/or taxes to limit global warming.”
These findings come from a nationally representative survey (Climate Change in the American Mind) conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. The survey of 1,226 American adults, aged 18 and older, was conducted Nov. 18-Dec. 1, 2016 on the GfK KnowledgePanel.
In addition to Leiserowitz and Maibach, principal investigators included Dr. Connie Roser-Renouf of George Mason University and Drs. Seth Rosenthal and Matthew Cutler of Yale University.