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Climate Change in the Minds of U.S. News Audiences

Executive Summary

Desire for More Information

  • Large majorities in most news audiences are interested in news stories about a wide range of global warming topics (p. 11-13).
  • However, majorities in all news audiences feel they are not very well informed about global warming (p. 10). Fewer than 20% in any news audience feel “very well informed.”
  • Majorities in the CNN, NPR, MSNBC, and the nightly network news audiences think the media should be doing more to address global warming, as do about half of those in the Weather Channel (51%) audience. In the Fox News audience, only one in three viewers (34%) think the media should be doing more (p. 10).

Global Warming’s Six Americas

  • Large majorities of the NPR, MSNBC, and CNN audiences are either Alarmed or Concerned (p. 4) about global warming.
  • The Concerned and the Cautious make up the largest portion of the Fox News audience (43% in total), and fewer (36% in total) are Doubtful or Dismissive (p. 4).

Beliefs and Attitudes About Global Warming

  • In all news audiences except that of Fox News, large majorities think global warming is happening and human-caused (p. 5).
  • About half of the Fox News audience (53%) think global warming is happening (p. 5).
  • Only one in four in the Fox News audience (25%) think global warming is not happening, but many (48%) think it is caused by natural changes in the environment (rather than human activities) (p. 5).
  • Most of the audience of each news source underestimates the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming. Members of the NPR audience are most likely to understand the extent of the scientific consensus, but even among this audience those who do are in the minority.
  • In most news audiences, large majorities (80%+ for CNN, MSNBC, and NPR) are worried about global warming (p. 6).
  • Majorities of the MSNBC, CNN, and NPR audiences think global warming is already harming people in the U.S. (p. 7).

The 2020 Presidential Election

  • Majorities in all audiences say global warming or protecting the environment will be important to their vote for president (p. 9).