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New Pew Survey: Americans Are Noticing the Effects of Climate Change and They Want Action

Irma Omerhodzic

Significant majorities of Americans are seeing the impacts of climate change on their communities and don't think that the U.S. government is doing enough to combat it, according to the results of the latest survey by the Pew Research Center, reported Monday.


Some highlights of the comprehensive national survey on environmental attitudes, taken by 2,541 adults between March 27 and April 9, are outlined below.

1. Government (In)action:

More than a year into the Trump administration's push to weaken environmental regulations, a large majority of Americans think the federal government is not taking sufficient action on a variety of environmental issues. Sixty-nine percent of Americans think the government is not doing enough to protect water quality, 67 percent say the government is not doing enough to fight climate change, 64 percent think the government is not doing enough to combat air pollution, 63 percent think the government is not doing enough to protect animals and their habitats and 57 percent think the government is not doing enough to protect public lands and national parks.

2. Personal Impacts

More than three-quarters of Americans said that climate change was already impacting the U.S. as a whole, either some or a great deal, and 59 percent said that it was impacting their local communities. Thirty-one percent said that changes in the climate were directly impacting their personal lives. Of those who did say it was impacting their communities, 45 percent said the impacts were due to extreme weather events like storms, flooding, droughts and wildfires.

3. Partisan Divide ...

The Pew survey confirmed the results of other recent surveys that indicate a partisan divide on the climate change opinions of U.S. citizens. While the Pew survey found that 53 percent of Americans overall think that climate change is caused by human actions, that percentage changes dramatically when the question is asked just of liberal Democrats or conservative Republicans. Eighty-three percent of liberal Democrats blame human activity for global warming, while only 18 percent of conservative Republicans agree. When it comes to energy policy, 73 percent of conservative Republicans favor offshore oil drilling versus 16 percent of liberal Democrats; similar divides exist for increasing coal mining (70 percent vs. 13 percent) and increasing fracking (67 percent vs. 17 percent.)

4. … Except on Renewable Energy

One point of political unity comes in support for expanding the use of renewable energy sources. Ninety-six percent of liberal Democrats and 80 percent of conservative Republicans favor expanding solar panel farms, and 93 percent of liberal Democrats and 71 percent of conservative Republicans support expanding wind turbine farms.

5. Conservative Generation Gap

The survey also offered hope that the partisan divide might shrink as time goes on. That is because many more Millennial Republicans are wary of fossil fuels compared to their Baby-Boomer-or-older counterparts. Only 44 percent of Millennial Republicans favor offshore-drilling, compared to 75 percent of older Republicans, only 43 percent support coal mining and 47 support fracking. Younger Republicans are also more likely to assign a human explanation for climate change, at 36 percent, and more likely to think the government is not doing enough to fight climate change, at 47 percent compared to 27 percent of Baby Boomers or older. A majority of Millennial Republicans actually think the government is doing too little to protect water (at 59 percent) and animals (at 60 percent).

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