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Climate Change in the American Mind, September 2021


4. Personal and Social Engagement with Global Warming

4.1. Most Americans “rarely” or “never” discuss global warming with family and friends.

About six in ten Americans (61%) say they “rarely” or “never” discuss global warming with family and friends, while about four in ten (39%) say they discuss global warming “occasionally” or “often.”

 

4.2. More than half of Americans hear about global warming in the media at least once a month; fewer hear people they know talking about it at least once a month.

More than half of Americans (57%) say they hear about global warming in the media once a month or more often, while one in three (33%) say they hear about global warming in the media several times a year or less often, including nine percent who say they never hear about global warming in the media.

Only about one in four Americans (24%) say they hear people they know talk about global warming once a month or more often. In contrast, about two in three (66%) say they hear people they know talk about it several times a year or less often, including 28% who say they never hear people they know talk about global warming.

 

4.3. About seven in ten Americans say the issue of global warming is personally important.

About seven in ten Americans (71%) say the issue of global warming is either “extremely” (19%), “very” (24%), or “somewhat” (28%) important to them personally. About three in ten (29%) say global warming is either “not too” (15%) or “not at all” (15%) personally important.

 

4.4. Fewer than half of Americans perceive social norms for taking action on global warming.

Social science research has shown that two types of social norms can have a powerful influence on people’s behavior: injunctive norms (the belief that friends and family expect you to behave in a given way) and descriptive norms (the belief that friends and family are themselves behaving in that way).Schultz, P. W., Nolan, J. M., Cialdini, R. B., Goldstein, N. J., & Griskevicius, V. (2007). The constructive, destructive, and reconstructive power of social norms. Psychological Science, 18(5), 429-434. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01917.x

Forty-three percent of Americans perceive an injunctive norm, saying it is either “extremely” (5%), “very” (13%), or “moderately” important (25%) to their family and friends that they take action to reduce global warming. Fewer Americans (38%) perceive a descriptive norm, saying their family and friends make either “a great deal of effort” (3%), “a lot of effort” (7%), or “a moderate amount of effort” (28%) to reduce global warming.

 

4.5. About seven in ten Americans feel a personal sense of responsibility to help reduce global warming.

About two in three Americans (69%) agree either “strongly” (21%) or “somewhat” (48%) that they feel a personal sense of responsibility to help reduce global warming.