Americans Support an International Climate Agreement in Paris

Most Say an Agreement is Important and Countries Should Do More About Global Warming

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference opens in Paris on November 30. In preparation for the negotiations, each country was asked to submit their own national action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and over 90% have done so, including the United States. President Obama is now going to Paris to press for an international agreement to reduce global warming. What does the American public think?

In our recent national survey, we asked Americans about the U.N. Summit in Paris, how much the U.S. and other countries should do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and whether the U.S. should only act if other countries do.

A large percentage of Americans (71%) say it is important to reach an agreement in Paris this year to limit global warming and 43% say reaching an agreement is very or extremely important. A large majority of Democrats say an agreement is important (85%), as do nearly 2 out of 3 Republicans (64%). In contrast, only 3% of Democrats and 24% of Republicans think reaching an agreement in Paris is “not at all” important.

Americans also support national and international action to address global warming. The survey finds that most Americans (64%) say the U.S. should do “more” or “much more” to address global warming, compared to 22% who think it is doing the right amount and only 13% who say the U.S. should do less. Americans are even more likely to say other countries should be doing more: majorities think developing countries (72%) as well as other industrialized nations (66%) should do more on climate change than they are currently.

Beyond their strong support for international cooperation, a majority of Americans (62%) think the U.S. should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions regardless of what other countries do. Just one in ten (9%) say the US should reduce its emissions only if other industrialized countries and developing countries reduce theirs, and only 6% say the U.S. should not reduce its emissions.

These results demonstrate that most Americans support a strong agreement in Paris.
Survey Method

Results are drawn from a nationally representative survey of 1,330 American adults, aged 18 and older, conducted September 30 – October 19, 2015. All questionnaires were self-administered by respondents in a web-based environment. The survey was fielded from September 30–October 19, 2015, and took, on average, about 24 minutes to complete. The margin of error at the 95% confidence level is plus or minus three percentage points.

The sample was drawn from GfK’s KnowledgePanel®, an online panel of members drawn using probability sampling methods. Prospective members are recruited using a combination of random digit dial and address-based sampling techniques that cover virtually all (non-institutional) resident phone numbers and addresses in the United States. Those contacted who would choose to join the panel but do not have access to the Internet are loaned computers and given Internet access so they may participate.

The sample therefore includes a representative cross-section of American adults – irrespective of whether they have Internet access, use only a cell phone, etc. Key demographic variables were weighted, post survey, to match US Census Bureau norms.

The survey instrument was designed by Anthony Leiserowitz, Geoff Feinberg, and Seth Rosenthal of Yale University, and Edward Maibach and Connie Roser-Renouf of George Mason University.

Photo credit: Flickr UNclimatechange