Politics & Global Warming, Fall 2015

5. Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes

5.1. Americans across political lines, except conservative Republicans, think global warming is happening.

Two in three Americans (68%) think global warming is happening. Large majorities of Democrats (86%) – liberal (92%) and moderate/conservative (79%) – think it is happening, as do two in three Independents (68%, up 9 points since Spring 2014) and liberal and moderate Republicans (65%).

By contrast, only about four in ten conservative Republicans think global warming is happening (43%). However, this marks an increase of 15 percentage points since our last politics of global warming report in Spring 2014, at which time, only 28% of conservative Republicans said they thought global warming was happening.


5.2. A majority of Democrats and Independents, but not Republicans, think global warming is caused by human activities.

Just over half of registered voters (52%) think that global warming is caused mostly by human activities, with an additional 6% saying human activities and natural changes both play a role. A large majority of Democrats (72%, and 82% of liberal Democrats), four in ten liberal and moderate Republicans (43%), and only 22% of conservative Republicans think global warming is mostly human-caused.


5.3. On average, Americans estimate that 59% of climate scientists are convinced human-caused global warming is happening.

In a recent study investigating the degree of scientific consensus on climate change, Cook and colleagues (2013)Cook, J., Nuccitelli, D., Green, S. A., Richardson, M., Winkler, B., Painting, R., Way, R., Jacobs, P., & Skuce, A. (2013). Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature. Environmental Research Letters, 8. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024024 examined nearly 12,000 peer-reviewed papers in the climate science literature and found that of those papers that stated a position on the reality of human-caused global warming, 97% said it is happening and at least partly human caused.

Public understanding of the scientific consensus on global warming, however, is different than the expert consensus. American registered voters, on average (median), estimate that only six in ten climate scientists (59%) are convinced.

Importantly, Americans’ estimates have improved since Spring 2014, when they estimated that just half of climate scientists are convinced. Democrats’ estimates improved the most (from median estimates of 69% of climate scientists in Spring 2014 to 75% in Fall 2015), followed by conservative Republicans (from 46% to 50%, respectively).


5.4. A large majority of Democrats, and half of Independents and liberal/moderate Republicans, are “worried” about global warming.

Over half (56%) of Americans say they are “very” or “somewhat” worried about global warming. Liberal Democrats are the most worried (83%), followed by moderate/conservative Democrats (66%). About half of Independents (53%) and liberal/moderate Republicans (50%) are worried about global warming. Relatively few conservative Republicans (28%) are worried, although there has been an 11-point increase in the number who are worried since our last politics report in Spring 2014.