September 23, 2014

Polls show most Americans believe in climate change, but give it low priority

Stark partisan divide over global warming, threat of climate changeThe United Nations is bringing together world leaders on Tuesday to focus on the challenge of climate change. In the U.S., a solid majority believe there is evidence that global warming is happening, but they do not rank global climate change as one of the top threats facing the country.

Last month, nearly half of Americans (48%) rated global climate change as a major threat — well behind concerns such as the militant group ISIS (67%), Iran’s nuclear program (59%) and North Korea’s nuclear program (57%). In an international survey of 39 publics last year, Americans were among the least concerned about climate change threatening their country.

Global warming also ranked near the bottom of Americans’ 2014 priorities for President Obama and Congress (28% said it was a top priority). Similarly, when asked last November about long-range foreign policy goals, 37% named global climate change as a top long-range goal; by comparison, 83% cited guarding against terrorist attacks and 81% named protecting American jobs as top goals.

Although action against climate change is not a high priority, most Americans continue to believe that such warming is occurring. In Pew Research’s 2014 Political Typology survey, about six-in-ten Americans (61%) said there is solid evidence that Earth’s average temperature has been getting warmer over the past few decades, compared with 35% who disagreed. And most who believe the Earth is warming said it is primarily due to human activity (40% total), while 18% of the public said there is warming mostly because of natural environmental patterns.

Views about climate change and the environment are at the center of one of the U.S.’s sharpest ideological divides, as seen through the different opinions of the seven Typology groups in today’s political landscape. About nine-in-ten Solid Liberals (91%) said the Earth is getting warmer, but just two-in-ten Steadfast Conservatives (21%) agreed.

And there is a similar gap between those who said the U.S. should do whatever it takes to protect the environment and those who thought the country had gone too far in its efforts to protect the environment. Nearly all Solid Liberals (96%) and just 21% of Steadfast Conservatives said the U.S. should do whatever it takes, while 2% of Solid Liberals and 75% of Steadfast Conservatives say the country has gone too far.

Topics: Energy and Environment, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Issue Priorities

  1. is a research analyst focusing on U.S. politics and policy at Pew Research Center.


  1. Dave Odum11 months ago

    I suppose when the earth was created that was called climate change. We went from a ball of fire to where we are now. Please look at the overall picture. Climate change is a natural thing and you are not going to change mother nature.

    1. REP11 months ago

      Yes, do look at the overall picture. We change “mother nature” all the time. We deforest, pollute and poison land sea and air, change natural habitats, decimate animal species, etc. And those are some relatively limited, “slow-acting” things we do to change mother nature. We can also make the planet essentially unliveable pretty quickly with a ‘simple’ global nuclear war or weaponized bioweapon.

      All these effects might be temporary on a cosmic scale. They may just affect humanity, and/or things might normalize themselves given hundreds or thousands of years. But seeing as how we don’t really live quite that long and we have no spare planet we can fly to it seems prudent to take the best care of the one we have. It’s not complicated stuff either. No draconian measures necessary–yet. It simply means learning to conserve resources when we can, wasting less, and transitioning to cleaner ways of doing things.

    2. Anonymous6 months ago

      The human race has caused a serious change in our climate over the past 100 yrs, they spew millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

  2. John W Bletsch12 months ago

    Back in my day weather was called Seasonal Appropriate Weather; hot in the summer, mild in the spring and fall, and cold in the winter. Of course there were variations in weather patterns, but at no point did anyone look at normal weather patterns as Climate Change or Global Warming.
    Far too many have fallen to the hoax perpetrated by Globalists looking to find a way to control the entire population of the planet. Al Gore has been their spokesman for decades and interestingly there were 170,000 glaciers on the planet when he was born and today there are only 170,000 remaining and let us not forget that the Arctic and Antarctic ice fields have grown in size rather than shrinking as claimed.
    I would also suggest that you do a more comprehensive poling of the population than you and other poling services do, then report factually what is found. I am in the majority of the population that believes this is all a grand hoax.

    1. Anonymous6 months ago

      Prove the antarctic ice fields are growing…. I want you to show me 100% proof that this is happening. I know for sure that gigantic chunks are breaking into the sea and will cause sea level rise, why is it then we can now see the rocky landscape of Antarctica when 30 yrs ago we couldn’t, these are facts ….. eyes don’t lie.

  3. jester 61 year ago

    So the headline should read “Polls show only 40% of Americans believe in man-made climate change, making it a low priority”.

    Radical Islam is real and expanding at an alarming rate. Unemployment is real and the American workforce continues to shrink.

    1. Billy1 year ago

      But thats not true, you misread.

    2. Betty Weaver Woods1 year ago

      Climate Change/Global Warming is nothing but a distraction for Obama from the voting on the “worst deal America has ever had”. I don’t think he really cares about the climate…only getting his Iran deal passed!!!

  4. dfdftgw2 years ago

    “83% cited guarding against terrorist attacks and 81% named protecting American jobs as top goals.”

    Just wow, four fifths of Americans are sheeple, I didn’t realise the rate was that high, a very dangerous situation.

  5. Tyler2 years ago

    This was no help at all

  6. Julia Lindau2 years ago

    Climate change is probably the biggest issue (in my opinion) that the world is faced with. If we keep doing business as usual, future generations won’t have anything to deal with because guess what, they’ll be trying to fix the problem we were too ignorant to recognize as a major threat. The world is heating and more people need to accept that. It’s also almost completely our fault. We need to start investing in new recourses that don’t release carbon dioxide or any at all. We need to find ways to stop releasing so much methane into the air too. If we just fixed these problems, the carbon dioxide and methane levels would plummet and global warming wouldn’t be nearly as huge of an issue.

  7. Dan Allosso2 years ago

    So why clean up your mess here, if a.) it can be fixed by the wave of God’s hand or b.) you’re going to a better place anyway. This is incredible. You want to change things with grass roots, bottom up organizing? You’ll need to deal with this. Just sayin…

    1. Marcel2 years ago

      God gave us dominion over earth, so it is our job to protect it. If the earth is destroyed before you die, I doubt you’ll be going up.

      1. Christopher Screvane1 year ago

        Not really. He gave us dominion over the earth so we could do what we want with it.

  8. Packard Day2 years ago

    Much like Obamacare (a.k.a. Affordable Care Act), Disney theme parks, tobacco companies, and organic foods, if people or their elected representatives are willing to “invest” in climate change technologies, I wish only to be on the other side of the table selling it to them. If such things make people feel better about themselves and they planet they live on, what is the harm in giving them exactly what they wish? Oh, and God bless America…ehh?

    1. johny radio2 years ago

      The harm is you wanting to be on the other side of the table selling it to them. It’s a threat to the status quo.

    2. jester 61 year ago

      Man, if you ever figure out how to get on the same side of the table as Al Gore and make massive amounts of money from this scam, let me know. I’m right there with you.