What do American Catholics and other Christians currently believe about global warming, how worried are they, and do they support policy action?
To answer these questions, we conducted a special analysis on our recent nationally representative survey conducted in the fall of 2014. Overall, we find that Catholics – 24% of all American adults – are more convinced that global warming is happening, are more worried, and are more supportive of policy action than other Christians.
We find that a solid majority of Catholics think global warming is happening (70%). By contrast, 57% of non-Catholic Christians think global warming is happening. Moreover, among those who think global warming is happening, Catholics are more likely than other Christians to think it is mostly human caused (48% versus 35%, respectively).
Catholics in the U.S. are also much more worried about global warming than other Christians. A majority of Catholics (64%) say they are very or somewhat worried about global warming – 18 percentage points higher than all other Christians (46%).
In another key measure, nearly half of Catholics (46%) understand that most scientists think global warming is happening, compared to only 37% of other Christians. Our research has found that understanding the scientific consensus is a “gateway belief” that influences other key beliefs about climate change.
Catholics express higher support for climate change policies than other Christians. Catholics expressed the highest levels of support for funding more research into renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power (81%) and providing tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (81%). Other Christians expressed lower levels of support for these two policies (73% for each).
The largest difference in policy support between Catholics and other Christians was on the proposal to require electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from wind, solar, or other renewable energy sources, even if it costs the average household an extra $100 a year. Nearly seven in ten Catholics (69%) support such a policy, compared to five in ten non-Catholic Christians (53%) – a 16 percentage point difference.
This Climate Note was written by Zena Grecni.
These findings are from a nationally-representative survey conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication
The survey instrument was designed by Anthony Leiserowitz, Geoff Feinberg, Seth Rosenthal, and Jennifer Marlon of Yale University, and Edward Maibach and Connie Roser-Renouf of George Mason University.
The research was funded by the 11th Hour Project, the Energy Foundation, the Grantham Foundation, and the V.K. Rasmussen Foundation.