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Study Maps Public Opinion About Global Warming Across the U.S.

To explore the model results, click here:

April 6th, 2015 – (New Haven, CT) — Researchers at Yale and Utah State University have pioneered a new statistical model that accurately estimates public climate change opinion and policy support in all 50 states, 435 Congressional Districts, 3,000+ counties, and cities across the nation, as reported in a newly published article: “Geographic variation in opinions on climate change at state and local scales in the USA” in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change.

“Most of the action to reduce carbon pollution and prepare for climate change impacts is happening at the state and local levels of American society” said Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, of Yale University. “Yet elected officials, the media, educators and advocates currently know little about the levels of public and political will for climate action at these sub-national levels. State and local surveys are costly and time intensive, and as a result most public opinion polling is only done at the national level. This model for the first time reveals the full geographic diversity of public opinion in the United States at these critical levels of decision making.”

Using these results, the research team also constructed an interactive, online tool called “Yale Climate Opinion Maps” which allows users to explore differences in public opinion in the United States in unprecedented geographic detail, as the county map of public worry about global warming illustrates below. Nationally, 52% of Americans are worried about global warming. But this national number glosses over the geographic diversity in public opinion across the country. Nationally, worry about global warming ranges from an estimated low of 38% of the public in Pickett County, Tennessee to a high of 74% in Washington, D.C. The results also identify important variation within states. For example in Texas, public worry about global warming ranges from a low of 39% in King County to a high of 61% in Travis County.

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“Although a majority of people in every state think global warming is happening, this analysis makes it possible to see how much opinions differ within each state,” said Dr. Peter Howe, of Utah State University and lead author of the scientific paper. “These differences are partly due to the fact that different groups often think differently about the issue. For example, Hispanics and Latinos tend to be more worried about global warming than other racial or ethnic groups, which can be seen on the map in counties with more Hispanic and Latino residents.”

The estimates are derived from a geographic and statistical model using multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) on a large national survey dataset (n>13,000), along with demographic and geographic population characteristics. The model estimates were then validated with a variety of techniques, including independent state and city-level surveys. Margin of error calculations indicate that the model is accurate to within +/- 5 percentage points at the state level, +/- 7 percentage points at the congressional district level, and +/-8 percentage points at the county level. To validate the model, the research team conducted separate surveys in four states and two cities and found that the estimates were within +/- 3 percentage points of the independent surveys at the state level and +/- 4 percentage points at the city level. Overall, the accuracy of the model estimates is higher for geographic areas with larger populations.

In addition to Dr. Leiserowitz and Dr. Howe, principal investigators included Dr. Jennifer Marlon and Matto Mildenberger of Yale University.

The research was funded by the Skoll Global Threats Fund, the Energy Foundation, the 11th Hour Foundation, the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, and the V.K. Rasmussen Foundation.