June 16, 2015

Ideological divide over global warming as wide as ever

Little Change in Views of Whether the Earth is WarmingPope Francis will publish an encyclical addressing environmental issues and climate change this Thursday, a subject that continues to deeply divide Americans, including Catholics, along partisan and ideological lines.

Overall, Americans’ views about whether the earth is warming have remained relatively stable in recent years, with about two-thirds of the public (68%) currently saying there is solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades while 25% say there is not solid evidence of this.

Even so, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that there has been a significant uptick over the past two years in the share of Americans who say global warming is a very serious problem. Currently, 46% say that global warming is a very serious problem, up 13 percentage points from the spring of 2013.

Partisanship and ideology remain some of the strongest factors underlying attitudes about whether Earth is warming, our survey finds. Today, roughly nine-in-ten liberal Democrats (92%) say that there is solid evidence Earth’s average temperature is rising, and 76% attribute this rise mostly to human activity. Very few liberal Democrats (5%) say there is not solid evidence of warming. A clear 83% majority of conservative and moderate Democrats also say Earth is warming, but just 55% say this is the result of human activity.

Liberal Democrats Overwhelmingly Say Solid Evidence Global Warming is Occurring; Most Conservative Republicans Say There is NotBy contrast, just 38% of conservative Republicans say that there is solid evidence of global warming. Reflecting a divide within the GOP, conservative Republicans stand out as the only ideological group in which a majority (56%) says that there is not solid evidence of a rise in the earth’s temperature (a 61% majority of moderate and liberal Republicans say Earth is warming).

Growing Share of Most Ideological Groups Say Global Warming is a Very Serious ProblemAnd while 21% of conservative Republicans say they think there is no solid evidence because “we just don’t know enough yet about whether the Earth is getting warmer,” about a third (32%) say that global warming is “just not happening.”

Although these deep ideological divides over global warming are not new, views about the significance of global warming as a problem continue to diverge.

Concern Up Among Those Who Say Global Warming Due to Human ActivityJust 14% of conservative Republicans say global warming is a very serious problem – a share that has remained unchanged in two years. But since 2013, the share of those who say global warming is a serious problem has increased among liberal Democrats to 76% (up 19 points), among conservative and moderate Democrats to 60% (up 17 points) and among moderate and liberal Republicans to 36% (up 17 points).

Young, Non-Whites More Likely to Say Global Warming a Very Serious ProblemThose who say global warming is happening as a result of human activity increasingly believe that it is a very serious problem: Today, fully three-quarters (75%) say this, up 17 points from 2013. And although just 33% of those who attribute warming to natural patterns in the earth’s environment say it is a very serious problem, that reflects a 10-point increase since 2013. Among those who say there is no solid evidence of global warming, just 8% say global warming is a very serious problem, unchanged since 2013.

Views of the seriousness of global warming also vary by gender, race, age and education. Women, Hispanics, younger people and those with college degrees are more likely to identify global warming as a very serious problem.

See a detailed breakdown of these questions by additional demographic groups here.

Topics: Energy and Environment, U.S. Political Parties, Catholics and Catholicism, Religious Leaders, Political Polarization

  1. Photo of Jocelyn Kiley

    is an associate director of research at Pew Research Center.


  1. Paul Kuczwara2 years ago

    There is NO GLO-BULL climate anything … at least caused by man. And, if someday you happen to meet a radical environmentalist, just ask them; “”wasn’t it supposed to be an ice age by now?” (they said so, and predicted as much, back in the late 1960’s, 1970’s and early1980’s); then when that didn’t pan out, they changed it back in 1990’s and early 2000’s, to GLO-BULL warming, (again they said so, and predicted that the oceans would have covered much of the low lying planet with up to 20 feet of higher water levels, and no polar ice caps.) OOPS, looks as if that didn’t work as expected either; now it’s “climate change”, so that any unusual weather event is covered under this blanket non-fact. But wait!, but wait!, I do believe in “climate change”, what! you say, yes I do, I really, REALLY do. It’s called SPRING-TIME (global warming); SUMMER-TIME(global getting quite toasty); FALL-TIME(global cooling); and WINTER-TIME(global darn cold).

  2. Bradley Noel2 years ago

    It is a complete shame that humans accept fudge as “data.” The only “warming” in the data is from the surface of growing urban areas. Everything else from these taxpayer funded liars is fudge.

    How about a better question – why does the Antarctic Circle have 9 times the ice of the Arctic?

    If you cannot answer that question, you have precisely ZERO understanding of Earth climate change…

  3. Louise2 years ago

    How long ago was it that Greenland was green?

  4. Edward B. Hauck2 years ago

    Declaring that the science of climate ‘change’ is set, i.e., infallible is an oxymoron. Science by definition is never set, established. That is the essence of science. . , ever evolving.
    If climate is changing, what then? No more gasoline vehicles; no natural gas for heating and cooling… nuclear and hydro, sun, wind utilies only (last two heavily subsidized by public taxes)!

  5. Donald Titus2 years ago

    A lot of ignorance here. The planet has been experiencing climate change since its inception. It has been a lot warmer, and it has been a lot colder. Climatological studies have shown over and over that climate change is a normal, cyclical event.

    1. TedS2 years ago

      You’re correct in that the climate has changed throughout Earth’s history. Colder at times, warmer at other times. All of which are ‘naturally occurring’ shifts.

      The concern among climatologists and other scientists is that there is a statistically significant deviation from what we know of the ‘cyclical events’ of normal, natural climate change throughout history. This variation is associated with human intervention since the industrial age.

      The correlative data is not difficult to find and interpret.

  6. Doncentx2 years ago

    A lot of ignorance here. The planet has been undergoing climate change since its inception. It has been much warmer and much colder. What we are experiencing is a normal cyclical event as shown by the numerous climatlogical studies.

  7. David M. Higgins2 years ago

    It would be quite strange if there were not a divide.
    On one side are 97% of the world’s scientists who have published a peer reviewed opinion about Climate change along with the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, the Savior of Humankind.
    An on the Other side are the Fossil Fuel Companies and the Father of Lies, Satan

    1. WernerJ2 years ago