New climate change poll highlights political differences

A new report from the Yale Program on Climate Communication offers new data on Americans' beliefs and attitudes about climate change, with a particular emphasis on the influence of political views. "Climate change is now more politically polarizing than any other issue in America," the program's director Anthony Leiserowitz told the Guardian (May 22, 2019).

Asked "Do you think that global warming is happening?" 70% of registered voters responding answered yes, 17% answered no, and 14% answered don't know. According to the report's executive summary, those answering yes included "95% of liberal Democrats, 87% of moderate/conservative Democrats and 63% of liberal/moderate Republicans. Only 38% of conservative Republicans answered yes, above the all-time low of 27% in November 2013 and below the all-time high of 50% in November 2008.

Presented with "Assuming global warming is happening, do you think it is ..." and asked to complete the sentence, 55% of registered voters responding preferred "Caused mostly by human activities," 32% preferred "Caused mostly by natural changes in the environment," 6% volunteered "Caused by both human activities and natural changes," and 6% preferred "Neither because global warming isn't happening." Opinion was politically divided, with a majority of Democrats but a minority of Republicans accepting human responsibility.

Presented with "Schools should teach our children about the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to global warming," 77% of registered voters responding agreed (39% strongly, 39% somewhat) and 22% disagreed (9% somewhat, 13% strongly). Agreement was the firm majority position among all political positions, except for conservative Republicans, who split about evenly between agreement (51%) and disagreement (49%); liberal Democrats were almost unanimous in agreement (97%).

The data were based on a nationally representative survey of 1,291 American adults, aged 18 and older, 1097 of whom were registered to vote. The survey was conducted on-line March 29-April 8, 2019.  Key demographic variables were weighted, post survey, to match US Census Bureau norms. The average margin of error for the full sample and the registered voter subset was +/- 3%.

Glenn Branch
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Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.