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Climate Activism: Beliefs, Attitudes, and Behaviors – November 2019


4. The Impact of Public Figures on Climate Activism

4.1. A majority of Americans are familiar with several public figures who support climate action.

Americans are generally at least “a little familiar” with a number of public figures who have taken a public position supporting climate action. A large majority of Americans are familiar with Leonardo DiCaprio (85%), Pope Francis (77%), and Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”; 77%). Majorities are also familiar with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (63%) and the Swedish teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg (61%).The survey was conducted shortly before Greta Thunberg was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019. Majorities across political party lines are at least a little familiar with each public figure.

Fewer Americans are familiar with the presidential candidate town halls about global warming on CNN and MSNBC (44%) or with the weekly school strikes for climate (also called Fridays for Future; 39%).

 

4.2. Americans trust several public figures as sources of information about global warming.

Of Americans who are at least “a little familiar” with the five individuals asked about in the previous section (see Section 4.1 for details), half or more “strongly” or “somewhat” trust each as a source of information about global warming. The highest percentage trust Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) – three in four Americans who are familiar with Bill Nye trust him as a source of information about global warming (76%), including nearly all Democrats (93%), a majority of Independents (70%), and about half of Republicans (53%).

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is trusted as a source of information by two in three Americans who are familiar with her (67%), including most Democrats (92%) and Independents (61%), but fewer Republicans (23%). Pope Francis is trusted by more than six in ten Americans who are familiar with him (64%), and that trust is less politically divided – he is trusted by majorities of Democrats (77%) and Independents (64%), and by 45% of Republicans. Similarly, 58% of those familiar with Leonardo DiCaprio trust him as a source of global warming information.

Trust in Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the most politically divided – half of Americans who are familiar with her (51%) trust her as a source of information about global warming. While she is trusted by 83% of Democrats who are familiar with her, only 39% of Independents and 7% of Republicans who are familiar with her trust her as a source of global warming information.

 

4.3. Americans are likely to join a campaign to convince public officials to take action to reduce global warming if several public figures asked Americans to.

Of Americans who are at least “a little familiar” with the five individuals asked about in Section 4.1, three in ten or more would “definitely” or “probably” join a campaign to convince elected officials to take action to reduce global warming if each individual asked Americans to. The teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg (43% of Americans who are familiar with her) and Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”; 42% of Americans who are familiar with him) are most likely to influence Americans who are familiar with them.

Majorities of Democrats who are familiar with Greta Thunberg (62%), Bill Nye (62%), and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (57%) are likely to influenced by them to join a campaign. Four in ten or more Independents who are familiar with Bill Nye (48%) and Greta Thunberg (45%) are likely to be influenced by them. Many fewer Republicans would join such a campaign if these public figures asked Americans to.