Yale Climate Opinion Maps


About Downscaling Climate Opinions

Public opinion about global warming is an important influence on decision making about policies to reduce global warming or prepare for the impacts, but American opinions vary widely depending on where people live. So why would we rely on just one national number to understand public responses to climate change at the state and local levels?

Public opinion polling is generally done at the national level, because local level polling is very costly and time intensive. Our team of scientists, however, has developed a geographic and statistical model to downscale national public opinion results to the state, congressional district, and county levels.

We can now estimate and visualize differences in opinion across the county and a clearer picture of the diversity of Americans’ beliefs, attitudes, and support for policy comes into focus. For instance, nationally, 64% of Americans think global warming is happening. But the model shows that only 44% of people in Spencer County, Indiana agree. Meanwhile we estimate that 60% in the nearby Vanderburgh County, Indiana believe global warming is happening.

Explore the maps by clicking on your state, congressional district, or county and compare the results across questions and with other geographic areas. Beneath each map are bar charts displaying the results for every question at whichever geographic scale is currently selected. See the methods page for more information about error estimates.

This research and website are funded by the Skoll Global Threats Fund, the Energy Foundation, the 11th Hour Project, the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, and the MacArthur Foundation. We are very grateful to Connie Roser-Renouf, Ed Maibach, Lisa Fernandez, Bessie Schwarz, Matthew Garrett, Geoff Feinberg, and Seth Rosenthal for their assistance with and support of the project.

For further questions about these maps or what they mean, please see our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Methodology

This site provides estimates of U.S. climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, and policy preferences at the state and local levels – a new source of high-resolution data on public opinion that can inform national, state and local decision-making, policy, and education initiatives.

The estimates are derived from a statistical model using multilevel regression with post-stratification (MRP) on a large national survey dataset (n>13,000), along with demographic and geographic population characteristics.

The estimates were validated using three different methods.

First, cross-validation analyses were conducted within the dataset. The dataset was divided into two sets of respondents, with one part used to run the model and the other kept aside for validation. The model estimates were then compared to the results of the set aside respondents to directly quantify the percentage of correct answers the model predicted. These cross-validation tests were repeated multiple times using different sample sizes and dividing the data in different ways.

Second, the model estimates derived from the full dataset were compared to the results of independent, representative state- and city-level surveys conducted in California, Colorado, Ohio, Texas, San Francisco, and Columbus, Ohio in 2013. The mean absolute difference between model estimates and validation survey results was 2.9 percentage points (SD = 1.5) among the four states (CA, TX, OH, CO) and 3.6 percentage points (SD = 2.9) among the two metropolitan areas (Columbus, OH, and San Francisco, CA), well within the margins of error for the survey results alone (at a 95% confidence level). Estimates have also been validated internally through a series of technical simulations.

Third, some model estimates were compared with third-party survey data collected by other researchers in previous years.

Margin of error estimates based on 95% confidence intervals using 199 bootstrap simulations indicate that the model is accurate to approximately ±5 percentage points at the state level, ±7 percentage points at the congressional district level and ±8 percentage points at the county level.

For more details, please see the peer-reviewed paper: Howe, P., Mildenberger, M., Marlon, J.R., and Leiserowitz, A., “Geographic variation in opinions on climate change at state and local scales in the USA,” Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2583.

Climate Change in the American Mind Survey Question Wording

Model estimates in the maps were derived from public responses to the following survey questions. The response categories for many questions were collapsed into a single variable for mapping. For example, for the question measuring how worried respondents are about global warming, “very worried” and “somewhat worried” were combined into a single measure of “worried.” Likewise “Not very worried” and “Not at all worried” were combined into a single measure of “not worried.” The responses below are color coded to indicate how they were grouped into the variables shown on the maps.

Individuals who responded “Don’t know” or who did not answer the question were not modeled separately and appear as gray segments within the bar charts.

BELIEFS

Global warming is happening
Recently, you may have noticed that global warming has been getting some attention in the news. Global warming refers to the idea that the world’s average temperature has been increasing over the past 150 years, may be increasing more in the future, and that the world’s climate may change as a result.
What do you think: Do you think that global warming is happening?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t know

Global warming is caused mostly by human activities
Assuming global warming is happening, do you think it is… ?

  • Caused mostly by human activities
  • Caused mostly by natural changes in the environment
  • Other
  • None of the above because global warming isn’t happening

Most scientists think global warming is happening
Which comes closest to your own view?

  • Most scientists think global warming is happening
  • There is a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether or not global warming is happening
  • Most scientists think global warming is not happening
  • Don’t know enough to say

RISK PERCEPTIONS

Worried about global warming
How worried are you about global warming?

  • Very worried
  • Somewhat worried
  • Not very worried
  • Not at all worried

Global warming is already harming people in the US
When do you think global warming will start to harm people in the United States?

  • They are being harmed right now
  • In 10 years
  • In 25 years
  • In 50 years
  • In 100 years
  • Never

Global warming will harm me personally
How much do you think global warming will harm you personally?

  • Not at all
  • Only a little
  • A moderate amount
  • A great deal
  • Don’t know

Global warming will harm people in the US
How much do you think global warming will harm people in the United States?

  • Not at all
  • Only a little
  • A moderate amount
  • A great deal
  • Don’t know

Global warming will harm people in developing countries
How much do you think global warming will harm people in developing countries?

  • Not at all
  • Only a little
  • A moderate amount
  • A great deal
  • Don’t know

Global warming will harm future generations
How much do you think global warming will harm future generations of people?

  • Not at all
  • Only a little
  • A moderate amount
  • A great deal
  • Don’t know

POLICY SUPPORT

Fund research into renewable energy sources
How much do you support or oppose the following policies?
Fund more research into renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power
  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose

Regulate CO2 as a pollutant
How much do you support or oppose the following policies?
Regulate carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas) as a pollutant

  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose

Set strict CO2 limits on existing coal-fire power plants
How much do you support or oppose the following policy?
Set strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants to reduce global warming and improve public health. Power plants would have to reduce their emissions and/or invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The cost of electricity to consumers and companies would likely increase.

  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose

Require utilities to produce 20% electricity from renewable sources
How much do you support or oppose the following policies?
Require electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from wind, solar, or other renewable energy sources, even if it costs the average household an extra $100 a year

  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose

A carbon tax if refunded to every American household
Some people say that Congress should enact a “revenue neutral tax swap” that would reduce the annual taxes paid by all Americans, while increasing the amount they pay annually for energy (such as gasoline and electricity) by the same total amount. How likely would you be to support or oppose the proposal if the money raised from the carbon tax was used to give a tax refund to every American household?

  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose
  • Don’t know

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The YPCCC is pleased to offer our downscaled climate change opinion estimates to the public. These data are distributed under the following terms of use.

This is a legal agreement between you, the end-user (“User”) and Yale University on behalf of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (the “YPCCC”).  By downloading the survey data made available on this web site (“Data”) you are agreeing to be bound by the terms and conditions of this agreement.  If you do not agree to be bound by these terms, do not download or use the Data.

The YPCCC hereby grants to the User a non-exclusive, revocable, limited, non-transferable license to use the Data solely for (1) research, scholarly or academic purposes, (2) the internal use of your business, or (3) your own personal non-commercial use.  You may not reproduce, sell, rent, lease, loan, distribute or sublicense or otherwise transfer any Data, in whole or in part, to any other party, or use the Data to create any derived product for resale, lease or license.  Notwithstanding the foregoing, you may incorporate limited portions of the Data in scholarly, research or academic publications or for the purposes of news reporting, provided you acknowledge the source of the Data (with express references to the YPCCC, as well as the complete title of the report) and include the following legend:

The YPCCC bears no responsibility for the analyses or interpretations of the data presented here.

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This license will terminate (1) automatically without notice from the YPCCC if you fail to comply with the provisions of this agreement, or (2) upon written notice (by e-mail, U.S. or otherwise) from the YPCCC.  Upon termination of this agreement, you agree to destroy all copies of any Data, in whole or in part and in any and all media, in your custody and control.

This agreement shall be governed by, construed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of Connecticut. You further agree to submit to the jurisdiction and venue of the courts of the State of Connecticut for any dispute relating to this Agreement.

Please use the following citation in any work that makes use of the data and documentation as follows:

Howe, Peter D., Matto Mildenberger, Jennifer R. Marlon, and Anthony Leiserowitz (2015). “Geographic variation in opinions on climate change at state and local scales in the USA.” Nature Climate Change, doi:10.1038/nclimate2583.

Direct any questions to the YPCCC at climatechange@yale.edu.

Zip Code for US residents
Please select your primary affiliation
Select yes or no

Frequently Asked Questions

What do these maps depict?
The maps depict estimates of the percentage of American adults (age 25 and over) who hold particular beliefs, attitudes, and policy preferences about global warming. The estimates were generated from a statistical model that incorporates actual survey responses from a large dataset of >13,000 individuals since 2008. The actual survey responses were combined with demographic data from the Census to estimate opinions based on information such as gender, race and ethnicity, and educational attainment; they also take into account changes in public opinion over time.
Where do the survey data underlying the estimates come from?
The data underlying the maps come from a large national survey dataset ( >13,000 respondents) collected between 2008 through 2014 as part of the Climate Change in the American Mind project led by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. Reports from the individual surveys are available here: CCAM Reports.
How accurate are the estimates?
No model is perfect and there are uncertainties in the model estimates. To validate the model, we conducted independent surveys in four states (CA, TX, OH, CO) and two metropolitan areas (Columbus, OH and San Francisco, CA) and compared the survey results to our model estimates. On average, the model estimates differed from the survey results by 2.9 percentage points among the four states and 3.6 percentage points among the two metropolitan areas, within the survey margins of error. A series of technical simulations estimate that the model has an average margin of error of +/-5 percentage points at the state level, +/-7 percentage points at the congressional district level and +/-8 percentage points at the county level. The model uncertainties are smaller at broad geographic scales (e.g., the state level), and are larger at finer geographic scales (e.g., at the county and city levels). The model estimates also tend to be conservative, so geographic areas with extremely high or low measures are not estimated as well as areas with values closer to the national average for each survey question.
What does the gray color mean on some of the bars beneath the maps?
The gray area reflects people who refused to answer the question or said “don’t know”. We do not provide specific values for the gray areas because we did not model this group specifically.
Do the maps account for differences in population density across the country?
No, the maps depict the estimated proportion of people within each geographic area who would answer each question as indicated. We have not adjusted the maps based on population density differences. It is important to keep in mind that some geographic areas may be large, but have few residents (e.g., Wyoming), while other geographic areas may be small, but have many residents (e.g., New Jersey). For reference, Wikipedia has a population density map here.

The type of map used in this tool is called a choropleth map, which means the colors on the maps reflect the percentage of the population in a given geographic unit. These kinds of maps are used to represent everything from election results (e.g.,the red state / blue state maps common during presidential elections) to census and economic data (e.g., per capita income or unemployment rates).

Do these maps reflect changes in opinions due to recent extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy?
Perhaps. The maps may reflect the impacts that specific extreme weather events had on public opinion in a given geographic unit. If public opinion in a particular area has been influenced by local events it is possible that the model would detect such an influence. However, data from specific events or types of events are not explicitly built into the model as predictor variables.
Can I use the data?
Yes. We encourage you to explore the maps and use the results in your own work. The data are available on our Data Download page so that you can do your own analyses and create your own visualizations. If you publish an academic paper using these data please acknowledge the source by using the following citation:

Howe, P., Mildenberger, M., Marlon, J., & Leiserowitz, A. (2015) “Geographic variation in opinions on climate change at state and local scales in the USA,” Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2583.

If you publish a news article, visualization or blog post using these data, please include a link back to the Yale Climate Opinion Maps website.

When will the data be updated next?
The estimates will be updated periodically when new Climate Change in the American Mind survey results are released.
Will you be adding changes over time to these maps?
The estimates on the maps are current as of Fall 2014. Changes in opinions over time were taken into account when generating the estimates. Estimates for past opinions and changes over time may be available in future versions of the tool.