This report reveals how registered voters across the political spectrum view global warming and how they think citizens and government should address it. Consistent with our prior surveys, we find that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to be convinced that human-caused global warming is happening and to support climate action.
But we also find, similar to the findings in our Fall 2015 politics report, that there is much more going on beneath the surface. One of the most interesting—and consistent—findings is a clear difference between liberal/moderate Republicans and conservative Republicans. In many respects, liberal/moderate Republicans are similar to moderate/ conservative Democrats on the issue of global warming, potentially forming a moderate, middle-ground public. Republicans are not a monolithic block of global warming policy opponents. Rather, liberal/moderate Republicans are often part of the mainstream of public opinion on climate change, while conservative Republicans’ views are often distinctly different than the rest of the American public. Some of the key findings are:
- An increasing number of registered voters think global warming is happening. Three in four (73%, up 7 points since Spring 2014) now think it is happening. Large majorities of Democrats—liberal (95%) and moderate/conservative (80%)—think it is happening, as do three in four Independents (74%, up 15 points since Spring 2014) and the majority of liberal/moderate Republicans (71%, up 10 points).
- By contrast, only 47% of conservative Republicans think global warming is happening. Importantly, however, there has been a large increase in the number of conservative Republicans who think global warming is happening. In fact, conservative Republicans have experienced the largest shift of any group—an increase of 19 percentage points over the past two years.
- Just over half of registered voters (56%) think that global warming is caused mostly by human activities, with an additional 4% who say that human activities and natural changes both play a role. A large majority of Democrats (75%, and 82% of liberal Democrats), half of liberal and moderate Republicans (49%), but only 26% of conservative Republicans think global warming is mostly human-caused.
- Although numerous studies find that 97% of climate scientists are convinced human-caused global warming is happening, few American voters are aware of this. Only about one in six (16%) voters understand that 90% or more of climate scientists are convinced. Liberal Democrats (38%) are nearly 10 times more likely than Republicans (4%) to understand that the scientific consensus is 90% or higher, but nonetheless a majority of liberal Democrats do not yet understand this either.
- Over half (57%) of Americans say they are “very” or “somewhat” worried about global warming. Liberal Democrats are the most worried (88%), followed by moderate/conservative Democrats (67%). About half of Independents (49%) and liberal/moderate Republicans (48%) are worried about global warming. Relatively few conservative Republicans (21%) are worried.
- In the past 12 months, three in ten Americans have rewarded companies taking steps to reduce global warming by buying their products (30%). Most likely to have done so are liberal Democrats (43%); least likely are conservative Republicans (11%). In the same time frame, about one in four Americans (24%) say they have punished companies that oppose taking steps to reduce global warming by not buying their products. The most likely to have done so are liberal Democrats (43%); the least likely are conservative Republicans (8%).
- In the past 12 months, few Americans have written letters, emailed, or phoned government officials about global warming (10%). The most likely to have done so are liberal Democrats (17%); the least likely are conservative Republicans (4%).
- About three in ten Americans (29%) would be willing to join – or are currently participating in – a campaign to convince elected officials to take action to reduce global warming. Nearly half of Democrats say they already have or would be willing to join a campaign (45%; 54% of liberal Democrats). One in four Independents would do so, and one in ten Republicans would as well (11%; 20% of liberal/moderate Republicans).
- Four in ten Americans (39%) think the American people can convince Congress to pass ambitious legislation to reduce global warming. The optimists outweigh the pessimists—only one in four (26%) think it is not possible. The balance—35%—are not sure.
- Among the issues voters say will influence their vote for President in 2016, global warming ranked 19th in importance of the 23 issues asked about. However, it was the tenth most important issue to Democrats (sixth highest for liberal Democrats and 13th highest for moderate/conservative Democrats). By contrast, global warming was near or at the bottom of presidential voting priorities for Independents and Republicans.
- Over half of Democrats (67%; 78% of liberals and 55% of moderates/ conservatives) and half of Independents (49%) say global warming will be among several important issues they consider when determining their vote for president this year.
- Conversely, Americans are less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who strongly opposes taking action to reduce global warming. Asked if they would be more or less willing to vote for a presidential candidate who strongly opposes action to reduce global warming, registered voters are about four times more likely to vote against such a candidate, than to vote for them (45% vs. 11%, respectively).
- Americans are more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who strongly supports taking action to reduce global warming. Asked if they would be more or less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who strongly supports action to reduce global warming, or if it would make no difference, registered voters are three times as likely to say they would be more (43%, up 7 percentage points since October, 2015) rather than less likely (14%) to vote for such a candidate.
- Registered voters support a broad array of energy policies, including many designed to reduce carbon pollution and dependence on fossil fuels, and to promote clean energy. Democrats are the most likely to support such policies, but majorities of Independents and Republicans do as well, including:
- Funding more research into renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power (84% of all registered voters, 91% of Democrats, 87% of Independents, and 75% of Republicans).
- Providing tax rebates to people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (81% of all registered voters, 91% of Democrats, 84% of Independents, and 70% of Republicans).
- Regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant (75% of all registered voters, 88% of Democrats, 78% of Independents, and 61% of Republicans).
- Requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax and using the money to reduce other taxes such as income taxes by an equal amount (68% of all registered voters, 86% of Democrats, 66% of Independents, and 47% of Republicans).
- Seven in ten registered voters (70%) support 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. Democrats (88%, 91% of liberal Democrats), Independents (67%) and liberal and moderate Republicans (67%) are all likely to support setting strict limits, however, only 37% of conservative Republicans support such limits.
- Across party lines, over half of registered voters say corporations and industry should do much or somewhat more to address global warming (74% of registered voters; 88% of Democrats, 74% of Independents, and 56% of Republicans).
 Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., Feinberg, G., & Rosenthal, S. (2015) Politics & Global Warming, Fall 2015. Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.