Most Americans Unconcerned About Climate Change: Gallup Poll

  • Date: 05/04/14
  • Gallup

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a new report this week warning of the existing and potentially severe adverse future impact of climate change, yet most Americans continue to express low levels of concern about the phenomenon.

A little more than a third say they worry “a great deal” about climate change or about global warming, putting these concerns at the bottom of a list of eight environmental issues.

Percentage of Americans Worrying “a Great Deal” About Environmental Problems, 2013 vs. 2014

Americans’ concerns about global warming and climate change have held steady over the past year, while concerns about other environmental threats tested by Gallup have increased. The percentage expressing a great deal of worry about pollution of drinking water, as well as contamination of soil and water by toxic waste, increased by seven percentage points. Worry about climate change and global warming, on the other hand, went up by no more than two points versus last year.

Americans’ generally low level of concern about global warming compared with other environmental issues is not new; warming has generally ranked last among Americans’ environmental worries each time Gallup has measured them with this question over the years. Concern about pollution of drinking water has generally been at the top of the list.

Gallup has tracked worry about global warming using this question format since 1989. The percentage of Americans expressing a great deal of worry has varied over that period, partly reflecting major global warming news events along the way. The highest levels of worry occurred in April 2000 (40%) and March 2007 (41%). On the other hand, worry reached its lowest points in October 1997 (24%), March 2004 (26%), and March 2011 (25%). The current 34% worry is essentially the same as it was in 1989.

Trend: Percentage of Americans Worrying “a Great Deal” About Global Warming

Politics Remain Major Predictor of Worry About Global Warming

Politics remain a powerful predictor of Americans’ worries about global warming, with more than half of Democrats saying they worry about it a great deal, compared with 29% of independents and 16% of Republicans. This political differentiation of global warming attitudes is not isolated; other research shows that in today’s political environment, Republicans are much more likely to say that concerns about global warming are exaggerated and that warming’s effects will not affect them personally in their lifetimes, and are less likely to say scientists believe global warming is occurring.

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