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Politics & Global Warming, May 2017


Key Findings

Drawing on a nationally representative survey (n=1,266; including 1,070 registered voters), this report describes how American registered Republican, Democratic, and Independent voters view global warming, personal and collective action, and climate policies:

 

Acting on Global Warming

Most registered voters say that a range of actors – in government, industry, and civil society – should be doing more to address global warming, regardless of what other countries do.

  • Across party lines, a majority of registered voters say corporations and industry should do more to address global warming (74% of all registered voters; 89% of Democrats, 75% of Independents, and 56% 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, and their own member of Congress should do more to address global warming. More than half of Democrats and Independents think President Trump should do more.
  • Half of registered voters (52%) think global warming should be a high or very high priority for the president and Congress, including nearly four out of five Democrats (78%) and half of Independents (54%), but only one in four Republicans (24%).
  • Most registered voters (68%) think the U.S. should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, regardless of what other countries do. Majorities of liberal Democrats (89%), moderate/conservative Democrats (78%), and liberal/moderate Republicans (62%) take this position, as well as nearly half of conservative Republicans (47%).

 

Energy Policies

Most registered voters support a range of policies to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution and dependence on fossil fuels. Democrats are the most likely to support such policies, but majorities of Independents and Republicans support many policies as well.  These include:

  • Funding more research into renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power (86% of all registered voters, 95% of Democrats, 82% of Independents, and 76% of Republicans).
  • Providing tax rebates to people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (84% of all registered voters, 95% of Democrats, 82% of Independents, and 74% of Republicans).
  • Regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant (77% of all registered voters, 94% of Democrats, 75% of Independents, and 57% of Republicans).
  • 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 – a plan often referred to as a “revenue neutral carbon tax” (70% of all registered voters, 88% of Democrats, 68% of Independents, and 48% of Republicans).
  • 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 (69% of all registered voters, 90% of Democrats, 67% of Independents, and 46% of Republicans).

 

Individual and Collective Action

Many more voters say they would advocate for climate policy with their elected representatives than have actually done so. Most say no one has ever asked them to take such an action, and many feel their actions wouldn’t make a difference.

  • Three in ten registered voters (31%) are participating, or would participate, in a campaign to convince elected officials to take action to reduce global warming (49% of Democrats, 30% of Independents, but only 11% of Republicans).
  • However, only one in eight registered voters (12%) say they have actually contacted an elected official during the past 12 months to urge them to take action to reduce global warming, although the rate is much higher among liberal Democrats (29%; an increase of 13 percentage points since March 2016).
  • More than three in four registered voters (78%) say nobody has ever asked them to contact elected officials about global warming. This is true across the political spectrum: 78% of Democrats, 70% of Independents, and 78% of Republicans have never been asked.
  • Two in three registered voters have never been contacted by an organization working to reduce global warming. This is true across the political spectrum: 65% of Democrats, 60% of Independents, and 71% of Republicans have never been contacted.
  • A majority of registered voters (52%) would vote for a candidate for public office because of their position on global warming (71% of Democrats, 57% of Independents, but only 30% of Republicans).
  • Most registered voters say that contacting elected officials about global warming wouldn’t make any difference (64%). Only one in five registered voters (22%) think people can affect what the government does about global warming (27% of Democrats, 23% of Independents, and 17% of Republicans).
  • Most registered voters say they don’t contact elected officials because they’re not an activist (62%), they don’t know which elected officials to contact (52%), or they wouldn’t know what to say (51%).

 

Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes

  • Seven in ten registered voters (71%) think global warming is happening, including 97% of liberal Democrats, 85% of moderate/conservative Democrats and 65% of liberal/moderate Republicans, but only 42% of conservative Republicans.
  • A majority of registered voters (56%) think global warming is caused mostly by human activities, including 87% of liberal Democrats and 62% of moderate/conservative Democrats, but only 45% of liberal/moderate Republicans and 30% of conservative Republicans.
  • A majority of registered voters (55%) are “very” or “somewhat” worried about global warming, including 86% of liberal Democrats and 72% of moderate/conservative Democrats, but only 43% of liberal/moderate Republicans and 23% of conservative Republicans.