What are Americans' Attitudes Toward Climate Change?
Today the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication released a new report, Global Warmings’ Six Americas in March 2012 and November 2011. This report adds to our growing understanding about the six different segments of the American public we first identified in the fall of 2008–the Alarmed, Concerned, Cautious, Disengaged, Doubtful and Dismissive. A few highlights:
- The size of the Six Americas has remained relatively stable since May 2011, with two exceptions: the Disengaged are now only 6 percent of the adult population (down from 10 percent in May 2011); and the Cautious have increased to 29 percent (up from 24 percent in May 2011). Also noteworthy is that for the first time since the fall of 2008, the proportion of the Alarmed (13 percent) is now larger than the Dismissive (10 percent).
- 93 percent of the Alarmed, 92 percent of the Concerned, 74 percent of the Cautious and 73 percent of the Disengaged say that global warming is affecting weather in the U.S. Majorities of these groups also say that global warming made several extreme weather and natural disasters in 2011 worse, including the drought in Texas and Oklahoma, floods in the Mississippi River Valley and record high temperatures across much of the U.S. By contrast, 90 percent of the Dismissive and 66 percent of the Doubtful say that global warming is not affecting the weather in the U.S.
- If 90 percent of climate scientists were to state publicly that global warming is happening, 66 percent of the Concerned, 58 percent of the Alarmed and 48 percent of the Cautious say that it would increase their level of concern about the issue. Only 18 percent of the Dismissive, however, say their concern would increase, consistent with their distrust of climate scientists.
- 89 percent of the Alarmed, 77 percent of the Concerned and 64 percent of the Cautious say that if people with their views worked together, they could influence their elected representatives' decisions on global warming.
- Half or more of the Alarmed (82 percent) and Concerned (50 percent) say they are willing to join a campaign to convince elected officials to do "the right thing" on global warming.
- President Obama is more trusted than Mitt Romney as a source of information about global warming by a margin of 64 percentage points among the Alarmed; 40 points among the Concerned; 30 points among the Cautious; and 19 points among the Disengaged. The Doubtful trust the two candidates about equally, while the Dismissive trust Romney more than Obama by 33 points.
- Sixty percent of Americans say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports legislation to reduce the federal income tax, while increasing taxes on fossil fuels by an equal amount (a “revenue-neutral tax swap”); only 20 percent say they would be less likely to vote for such a candidate. 82 percent of the Alarmed, 71 percent of the Concerned, 65 percent of the Cautious, and 51 percent of the Disengaged would favor a candidate holding this position. 43 percent of the Doubtful and 23 percent of the Dismissive would favor such a candidate, however, 31 percent of the Doubtful and 30 percent of the Dismissive say it would make no difference in their votes.
These and many other results can be found in the full report.
The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication (originally the Yale Project on Climate Change) grew out of a groundbreaking conference on “Americans and Climate Change” that the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies convened in 2005 in Aspen, CO. Over 100 national leaders representing science, media, religion, politics, entertainment, education, business, environmentalism, and civil society came together to develop an action plan to engage American society on climate change. Their charge was to diagnose why, in the face of ever stronger climate science, the United States had been slow to act and to recommend a set of initiatives to catalyze action.