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Politics & Global Warming, October 2017


Executive Summary

Drawing on a nationally representative survey (n=1,304; including 1,109 registered voters), this report describes how registered Democratic, Independent, and Republican voters view global warming, climate change and energy policies, and personal and collective action.

 

Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes

  • Seven in ten registered voters (72%) think global warming is happening, including 97% of liberal Democrats, 89% of moderate/conservative Democrats and 63% of liberal/moderate Republicans, but only 37% of conservative Republicans. Belief that global warming is happening has declined among Republicans since the 2016 election.
  • A majority of registered voters (54%) think global warming is caused mostly by human activities, including 83% of liberal Democrats and 67% of moderate/conservative Democrats, but only 41% of liberal/moderate Republicans and 21% of conservative Republicans. Belief that global warming is mostly human caused has declined among Republicans since the 2016 election.
  • A majority of registered voters (63%) are “very” or “somewhat” worried about global warming, including 94% of liberal Democrats, 80% of moderate/conservative Democrats, and 55% of liberal/moderate Republicans, but only 23% of conservative Republicans. Worry about global warming has increased among Democrats, but has stayed relatively level among Republicans in recent years.

 

Climate Change and 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 (87% of registered voters, 96% of Democrats, 82% of Independents, and 76% of Republicans).
  • Providing tax rebates to people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (83% of registered voters, 94% of Democrats, 74% of Independents, and 71% of Republicans).
  • Regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant (77% of registered voters, 92% of Democrats, 72% of Independents, and 61% 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 (70% of registered voters, 90% of Democrats, 61% of Independents, and 47% 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 (69% of registered voters, 87% of Democrats, 59% of Independents, and 49% of Republicans).
  • Generating renewable energy on public land in the United States (86% of registered voters, 91% of Democrats, 81% of Independents, and 81% of Republicans).

Additionally:

  • Half of registered voters support expanding drilling for oil and natural gas off the U.S. coast (51% of registered voters, 35% of Democrats, 47% of Independents, and 72% of Republicans).
  • About four in ten registered voters support drilling and mining for coal, oil, and natural gas on public land in the U.S. (44% of registered voters, 26% of Democrats, 49% of Independents, and 66% of Republicans).
  • Only three in ten registered voters support drilling for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (29% of registered voters, 15% of Democrats, 32% of Independents, and 46% of Republicans.
  • More than eight in ten registered voters think the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency’s work on global warming should either be increased (54%) or kept the same (28%). Only 16% of registered voters think the budget should be reduced. Only 4% of Democrats, 21% of Independents, and 32% of Republicans think the EPA’s global warming budget should be reduced.
  • A majority of registered voters (63%) think the federal government should be doing more to protect people from the impacts of global warming, such as flooding, drought, and heat waves. This includes nearly nine in ten Democrats (88%), about half of Independents (53%), and one in three Republicans (33%).
  • Three in four registered voters (76%) support U.S. participation in the Paris Climate Agreement, including almost all Democrats (94%), two in three Independents (67%), and the majority of Republicans (56%).
  • A majority of registered voters (63%) oppose the United States’ decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, including 85% of Democrats and 58% of Independents, but only 38% of Republicans.
  • A majority of registered voters (62%) think protecting the environment improves economic growth and provides new jobs. An additional 21% think protecting the environment has no effect on economic growth or jobs. By contrast, only 16% think protecting the environment reduces growth and costs jobs. Conservative Republicans are the only political group more likely to think protecting the environment reduces growth and jobs (39%) versus improves it (32%).
  • When there is a conflict between environmental protection and economic growth, 75% of registered voters think environmental protection is more important, including nine in ten Democrats (92%), two in three Independents (67%), and more than half of Republicans (54%).
  • A large majority of registered voters (79%, including 96% of Democrats, 77% of Independents, and 58% of Republicans) say that schools should teach children about the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to global warming.

 

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 registered voters; 93% of Democrats, 71% of Independents, and 52% 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, or their local government officials should do more to address global warming. Half or more Democrats and Independents think President Trump and their governor should do more. Eight in ten Democrats think the media should do more.
  • A majority of registered voters (56%) think global warming should be a high or very high priority for the president and Congress, including more than four out of five Democrats (84%), but fewer Independents (44%), and only about one in four Republicans (23%).
  • Most 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 (80%), and liberal/moderate Republicans (59%) take this position, as well as four in ten conservative Republicans (41%).

 

Individual and Collective Action

More voters say they are willing to advocate for climate policy with their elected representatives than have actually done so.

  • About four in ten registered voters are participating in (2%), or would definitely (12%) or probably (24%) participate, in a campaign to convince elected officials to take action to reduce global warming (59% of Democrats, 29% of Independents, but only 14% of Republicans).
  • However, only about one-third of that number (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 (30%).
  • A majority of registered voters (53%) would vote for a candidate for public office because of their position on global warming (76% of Democrats, 44% of Independents, and 30% of Republicans).
  • About a third of registered voters say that, if asked by someone they like and respect, they would donate money to an organization working on global warming (37%), contact an elected official about global warming (35%), volunteer for an organization working on global warming (34%), or meet with an elected official or their staff about global warming (31%).
  • About one in five registered voters have posted comments online about global warming (21%), or volunteered with or donated money to an organization working to reduce global warming (19%). One in twelve have attended a community meeting or rally about global warming (8%).
  • One third of registered voters (34%) think elected officials are influenced by the advocacy actions of citizens when considering policies to reduce global warming, and three in ten (31%) think officials are influenced by citizens’ actions when deciding whether to repeal environmental protections.