Climate Change in the American Mind

By Anthony LeiserowitzEdward MaibachSeth RosenthalJohn KotcherParrish BergquistMatthew BallewMatthew Goldberg and Abel Gustafson and published via Yale Program on Climate Change Communication in April 2019

The original piece can be accessed here.

1. Executive Summary

  • About seven in ten Americans (69%) think global warming is happening. Only about one in six Americans (16%) think global warming is not happening. Americans who think global warming is happening outnumber those who think it isn’t by more than a 4 to 1

  • Many Americans are certain that global warming is happening; 46% are “extremely” or “very” sure it is happening. By contrast, far fewer (8%) are “extremely” or “very sure” global warming is not

  • A majority of Americans (55%) understand that global warming is mostly human-caused. By contrast, only about one in three (32%) think it is due mostly to natural changes in the

  • More than half of Americans (53%) understand that most scientists think global warming is happening. However, only about one in six (17%) understand how strong the level of consensus among scientists is (i.e., that more than 90% of climate scientists think human-caused global warming is happening).

  • About six in ten Americans (62%) say they are at least “somewhat worried” about global More than one in five (23%) are “very worried” about it.

  • Nearly four in ten Americans (38%) say they have personally experienced the effects of global

  • About four in ten Americans (38%) think people in the United States are being harmed by global warming “right ”

  • More than four in ten Americans (44%) think they will be harmed by global warming, while more think their family (48%), and/or people in their community (48%) will be harmed. More than half of Americans think global warming will harm people in the S. (59%), people in developing countries (64%), the world’s poor (64%), future generations of people (69%), and/or plant and animal species (71%).

  • More than six in ten Americans (64%) say the issue of global warming is either “extremely,” “very,” or “somewhat” important to them personally, while about one in three (36%) say it is either “not too” or “not at all” personally

  • About six in ten Americans (63%) say they “rarely” or “never” discuss global warming with family and friends, while 37% say they do so “occasionally” or “often”.

  • About half of Americans (51%) say they hear about global warming in the media at least once a month. Fewer (23%) say they hear people they know talking about global warming at least once a month.

  • Fewer than half of Americans perceive a social norm in which their friends and family expect them to take action on global warming. Forty-five percent think it is at least moderately important to their family and friends that they take action (an injunctive norm), and about four in ten (41%) say their family and friends make at least a moderate effort to reduce global warming (a descriptive norm).

  • About half of Americans (54%) say they have thought about global warming more than “a little.”

  • Very few Americans (12%) think it is too late to do anything about global warming, and only four in ten (40%) think the actions of a single individual won’t make any difference in global warming. About half of Americans (49%) think new technologies can solve global warming without individuals having to make big changes in their

  • Majorities of Americans think of global warming as an environmental (75%), scientific (69%), severe weather (64%), agricultural (63%), health (58%), political (57%), economic (54%) and/or humanitarian (51%) issue. Fewer think it is a moral (38%), poverty (29%), national security (27%), social justice (24%), and/or religious issue (9%).

  • Six in ten Americans (60%) think global warming is affecting weather in the United States, and about three in ten think weather is being affected “a lot” (28%).

  • A majority of Americans are worried about harm from extreme events in their local area including extreme heat (69%), droughts (64%), flooding (60%), and/or water shortages (59%).

Please note: In consultation with independent statisticians and survey methodologists, we and Ipsos KnowledgePanel® (our survey provider) have slightly modified the sampling method for our current and future surveys. In the past, KnowledgePanel® members who had participated in one of our prior surveys were not eligible to participate in any subsequent Climate Change in the American Mind studies. Details about our modified sampling method are described in Appendix II.

Matthew Wisner