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Politics & Global Warming, December 2018


Executive Summary

Drawing on a nationally representative survey (N = 1,114; including 966 registered voters), this report describes how Democratic, Independent, and Republican registered voters view global warming, climate and energy policies, and personal and collective action. Among other important findings, this survey documents an increase in Republican understanding of the reality of human-caused global warming, worry about the threat, and support for several climate policies over the past 14 months.

Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes

  • Most registered voters (74%) think global warming is happening, including 98% of liberal Democrats, 85% of moderate/conservative Democrats and 70% of liberal/moderate Republicans. Only 42% of conservative Republicans think global warming is happening, but that reflects an increase of five percentage points since October 2017.
  • A majority of registered voters (62%) think global warming is caused mostly by human activities, the highest percentage since our surveys began in 2008 and eight percentage points higher than in October 2017. This includes 90% of liberal Democrats, 66% of moderate/conservative Democrats, and 53% of liberal/moderate Republicans, but only 28% of conservative Republicans.
  • Two in three registered voters (67%) are worried about global warming, including 85% of liberal Democrats, 80% of moderate/conservative Democrats, and 54% of liberal/moderate Republicans. Only one in three conservative Republicans (32%) are worried, although that is a nine-point increase since October 2017 and the highest percentage since our surveys began in 2008

Global Warming and Energy Policies

Large majorities of registered voters across the political spectrum support policies that reduce carbon pollution and dependence on fossil fuels and promote clean energy. These include:

  • The Green New Deal. Described as: “Producing jobs and strengthening America’s economy by accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy…generating 100% of the nation’s electricity from clean, renewable sources within the next 10 years; upgrading the nation’s energy grid, buildings, and transportation infrastructure; increasing energy efficiency; investing in green technology research and development; and providing training for jobs in the new green economy” (81% of registered voters, 92% of Democrats, 88% of Independents, and 64% of Republicans).
  • The Clean Power Plan. Described as: “Setting strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants to reduce global warming and improve public health, even if the cost of electricity to consumers and companies would likely increase” (71% of registered voters, 86% of Democrats, 77% of Independents, and 48% of Republicans).
  • A Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax. Described as: “Requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax and using the money to reduce other taxes (such as income tax) by an equal amount (71% of registered voters, 85% of Democrats, 71% of Independents, and 49% of Republicans).
  • Fee and Dividend. Described as: “Requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a fee on carbon pollution, and distributing the money collected to all U.S. citizens, in equal amounts, through monthly dividend checks” (63% of registered voters, 78% of Democrats, 66% of Independents, and 39% of Republicans).

Large majorities of registered voters also support:

  • Funding more research into renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power (88% of registered voters, 95% of Democrats, 84% of Independents, and 81% of Republicans).
  • Providing tax rebates to people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (85% of registered voters, 95% of Democrats, 85% of Independents, and 71% of Republicans).
  • Regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant (79% of registered voters, 93% of Democrats, 81% of Independents, and 60% of Republicans).

Fewer registered voters support policies to increase fossil-fuel production:

  • About half of registered voters support expanding drilling for oil and natural gas off the U.S. coast (48% of registered voters, 30% of Democrats, 49% of Independents, and 72% of Republicans).
  • Only about one in three registered voters support drilling for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (32% of registered voters, 18% of Democrats, 33% of Independents, and 53% of Republicans).

Acting on Global Warming

  • Across party lines, a majority of registered voters say corporations and industry should do more to address global warming (75% of registered voters, 91% of Democrats, 72% of Independents, and 53% of Republicans).
  • At least half of registered voters – including Democrats, Independents, and liberal/moderate Republicans, but not conservative Republicans – think citizens, the U.S. Congress, their own member of Congress, their local government officials, and/or their governor should do more to address global warming. Majorities of Democrats and Independents think President Trump should do more.
  • A majority of registered voters (57%) think global warming should be a high or very high priority for the president and Congress, including a majority of Democrats (84%), but fewer Independents (41%) and Republicans (24%).
  • A strong majority of registered voters (69%) think the United States should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, regardless of what other countries do. Majorities of liberal Democrats (92%), moderate/conservative Democrats (76%), and liberal/moderate Republicans (55%) take this position, as well as 45% of conservative Republicans.

Individual and Collective Action

  • About half of registered voters are confident that people working together can influence what local decision-makers do about global warming (local businesses, 51%; local government, 50%). Fewer think that people can influence what state government (46%) or national decision-makers (corporations, 39%; federal government, 38%) do about global warming.
  • At least one in three registered voters say that they would participate in an organized effort to address global warming, including: donating money to an organization working on global warming (39%), contacting a government official about global warming (38%), volunteering for an organization working on global warming (35%), and/or meeting with an elected official or their staff about global warming (32%).
  • About one in three registered voters (36%) are currently participating (2%), definitely would participate (11%), or probably would participate (24%) in a campaign to convince elected officials to take action to reduce global warming (totals of 57% of Democrats but only 25% of Independents and 13% of Republicans).
  • However, relatively few registered voters (13%) say they have actually contacted an elected official during the past 12 months to urge them to take action to reduce global warming, including one in four liberal Democrats (26%).