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What’s In A Name? Global Warming vs Climate Change


What’s In A Name? Global Warming vs Climate Change

Report Summary

We found that the term “global warming” is associated with greater public understanding, emotional engagement, and support for personal and national action than the term “climate change.”

For example, the term “global warming” is associated with:

  • Greater certainty that the phenomenon is happening, especially among men, Generation X (31-48), and liberals;
  • Greater understanding that human activities are the primary cause among Independents;
  • Greater understanding that there is a scientific consensus about the reality of the phenomenon among Independents and liberals;
  • More intense worry about the issue, especially among men, Generation Y (18-30), Generation X, Democrats, liberals and moderates;
  • A greater sense of personal threat, especially among women, the Greatest Generation (68+), African-Americans, Hispanics, Democrats, Independents, Republicans, liberals and moderates;
  • Higher issue priority ratings for action by the president and Congress, especially among women, Democrats, liberals and moderates;
  • Greater willingness to join a campaign to convince elected officials to take action, especially among men, Generation X, liberals and moderates.

Our findings strongly suggest that the terms global warming and climate change are used differently and mean different things in the minds of many Americans.  The following graphic shows how the two terms elicit different meanings for Americans.

Image for Images Americans Associate With the terms “Global Warming” and “Climate Change”
Image for Images Americans Associate With the terms “Global Warming” and “Climate Change”

Further, Americans are four times more likely to say they hear the term global warming in public discourse than climate change. Likewise, Americans are twice as likely to say they personally use the term global warming than climate change in their own conversations.

Image for Americans Use and Hear the Term “Global Warming” More Often Than “Climate Change”
Image for Americans Use and Hear the Term “Global Warming” More Often Than “Climate Change”

The report includes an executive summary, a Google Trends analysis, an analysis of the top of mind associations generated by the two terms, and methodological details.