Climate Change in the American Mind: Focus on California, Colorado, Ohio and Texas

Report Summary


  • Majorities in each state say global warming is happening. This belief is most widespread in California (79%), but seven in ten in Colorado, Ohio, and Texas agree as well (70% in each).
  • Over half of Californians say that, if global warming is happening, it is caused mostly by human activities (58%). About half of Ohioans (49%) and Coloradans (48%) agree. By contrast, fewer Texans (44%) say global warming is caused mostly by human activities, and 31% say it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment.
  • Californians are the most likely to say they are very or somewhat worried about global warming (63%), followed by Coloradans (59%). Ohioans are the least likely to express worry (52%), and nearly half (47%) say they are not very or not at all worried about global warming.
  • Half or more people in each state say that global warming will cause a great deal of harm to plant and animal species—California (66%), Colorado (55%), Ohio (52%), and Texas (54%)—and to future generations of people (65%, 56%, 52%, and 54% respectively). Fewer, however, believe that global warming will cause great harm people in their communities (26%, 20%, 17%, and 20% respectively), or their own families (24%, 20%, 18%, and 19%). In each state, even fewer believe global warming will harm them personally (19%, 15%, 14%, and 16%)
  • Over half of Californians (55%) say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming. By contrast, fewer than half (45%) of Ohioans say that they have. Almost as many Texans as Californians (52%) say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming, including 25% who strongly agree (the highest proportion among the states). Almost half (48%) of Coloradans say they have.
  • With the exception of California, people in the states surveyed are more likely to say scientists disagree than agree that global warming is happening. In Colorado, 50% say most scientists disagree versus 41% who say most scientists agree; in Ohio, the respective numbers are 49% versus 43%; and in Texas, they are 47% versus 43%. Californians by a substantial margin, however, understand that scientists agree (55%) rather than disagree (37%) that global warming is happening.
  • A plurality in each state—California (42%), Colorado (43%), Ohio (35%), and Texas (35%)—believe humans could reduce global warming, but it’s unclear at this point whether we will do what’s needed. By contrast, only about one in ten or less believes that humans can reduce global warming and we will do so successfully (12%, 7%, 7%, and 8%).
  • More people in each state say that corporations and industry, and individuals themselves, relative to the government, should be doing more to address global warming. In California, 53% say corporations and industry should be doing much more, and about four in ten say the same in Colorado (40%), Ohio (42%), and Texas (40%).
  • Majorities in California (73%), Colorado (69%), Ohio (59%), and Texas (55%) say the United States should reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions regardless of what other countries do.
  • Large majorities – from 77% in Texas to 81% in California – strongly or somewhat support providing tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels.
  • Substantially more people in each state say switching from fossil fuels to clean energy sources would increase rather than decrease economic growth in their state. This is particularly true in California, where 51% say switching to clean energy would increase economic growth, versus 19% who say it would decrease growth (a difference of 32 percentage points).
  • In each state, at least one in ten people say they have, in the past 12 months, written, emailed, or phoned a government official about global warming. Among them, most contacted the official to ask them to take action to reduce global warming (at least 75% in each state).
  • People talk about global warming with friends and family more often in some states than in others. In Colorado and California, majorities talk about the subject at least occasionally (59% and 53% respectively). By contrast, over half of those in Ohio (54%) and Texas (54%) talk about global warming with friends and family only rarely or never.
  • President Obama is very or somewhat believable to majorities of Californians (67%), Texans (58%), Ohioans (57%), and Coloradans (56%) regarding energy- and climate-related issues.