Climate Change in the American Mind: March, 2016

2. Global Warming Emotions

2.1. Over half of Americans are worried about global warming, but few are “very” worried.

Over half of Americans (58%) say they are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming, but only 16% say they are “very worried.” Worry about global warming has increased 6 points since spring 2015, an increase that is driven mostly by people who now say they are “very worried” (+5 points since spring 2015).


Similarly, over half of Americans (61%) say global warming is at least “somewhat important” to them personally (see Table, p. 26, for details), but only one in four (26%) say it is “extremely” or “very” important. About four in ten (39%) say the issue is “not too” or “not at all” important to them.

2.2. Two in three Americans feel “interested” in global warming. Half feel “helpless,” “disgusted,” and/or “hopeful” about it.

When asked how strongly they feel several emotions when they think about global warming, over half of Americans (67%) say they feel very or moderately “interested” in it, followed by about half who say they feel “helpless” (49%), “disgusted” (48%) and/or “hopeful” (48%).

Large minorities also feel very or moderately “afraid” (42%), “angry” (41%), and/or “outraged” (41%) when they think about global warming.


Emotional reactions to global warming may be felt for different reasons, and signify different meanings depending on an individual’s beliefs about global warming. For instance, someone who thinks global warming is happening may feel “disgusted” about it for very different reasons than does someone who does not think global warming is happening. For that reason, we looked separately at people’s emotions about global warming depending on whether they think it is happening, don’t know whether or not it’s happening, or think it is not happening.

We found that eight in ten (80%) Americans who think global warming is happening say they are very or moderately “interested” in it. About six in ten feel “helpless” (59%) and “disgusted” (57%), and about half feel other negative emotions (“afraid,” 54%; “outraged,” 49%; and/or “angry,” 48%). However, a majority who think global warming is happening also feel “hopeful” (54%).

Four in ten Americans who don’t know if global warming is happening still feel “interested” (41%) and “hopeful” (40%). One in four Americans who think global warming is not happening are also “interested” (25%), “disgusted” (25%), and “angry” (25%).