Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

How Americans View National, Local and Personal Energy Choices

Most Americans want more renewable energy, but support has dipped. Interest in electric vehicles has also declined

Most Americans want more renewable energy, but support has dipped. Interest in electric vehicles has also declined

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s Pine Tree Wind Farm and Solar Power Plant are seen in the Tehachapi Mountains in Kern County, California, in March 2021. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
How we did this

Pew Research Center conducted this study to understand Americans’ views of energy issues. For this analysis, we surveyed 8,638 U.S. adults from May 13 to 19, 2024.

Everyone who took part in the survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way, nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.

Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its Methodology.

The planet’s continued streak of record heat has spurred calls for action by scientists and global leaders. Meanwhile, in the United States, energy development policy is being hotly debated on the national and local levels this election year. How do Americans feel about U.S. energy policy options, and what steps are they willing to take in their own lives to reduce carbon emissions? A new Pew Research Center survey takes a look.

Among the major findings:

Chart shows Support for expanding wind, solar power in the U.S. has fallen since 2020

There’s been a decline in the breadth of support for wind and solar power. The shares who favor expanding solar and wind power farms are down 12 percentage points and 11 points, respectively, since 2020, driven by sharp drops in support among Republicans.

Interest in buying an electric vehicle (EV) is lower than a year ago. Today, 29% of Americans say they would consider an EV for their next purchase, down from 38% in 2023.

Still, a majority of Americans (63%) support the goal of the U.S. taking steps to become carbon neutral by 2050. When asked which is the greater priority, far more Americans continue to say the country should focus on developing renewable energy than fossil fuel sources (65% vs. 34%).

The survey, conducted May 13-19 among 8,638 U.S. adults, finds a fairly modest share of U.S. adults (25%) say it’s extremely or very important to them personally to limit their own “carbon footprint.” Far more give this middling or low priority.

These findings illustrate how large shares of Americans back more renewable energy that would decrease overall carbon emissions. Still, this general orientation does not necessarily translate into strong commitment to reducing personal carbon emissions or interest in buying an EV.

Jump to read more on: Trends in views of energy development in the U.S. | Views on wind and solar development at the local level | Perceptions of solar power in people’s own lives

What’s behind declines in support for wind and solar?

Declines in public support for renewable energy have been driven by Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, whose support started to fall sharply after President Joe Biden took office in early 2021.

  • 64% of Republicans say they favor more solar panel farms, down from 84% in 2020.
  • 56% of Republicans say they favor more wind turbine farms, a 19-point drop from 2020.
Chart shows Growing partisan divide in support for expanding wind, solar power in the U.S.

Over this same time period, views among Democrats and Democratic leaners on these measures are little changed, with large majorities continuing to support more wind and solar development.

In some cases, gaps between Republicans and Democrats over energy policy now approach the very wide partisan divides seen over the importance of climate change.

In May 2020, Democrats were 26 points more likely than Republicans to say the country’s priority should be developing renewable energy (91% vs. 65%). Four years later, that gap has ballooned to 49 points, due almost entirely to changing views among Republicans – 61% of whom now say developing fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas should be the more important priority.

Jump to more details on partisan differences in views of U.S. energy development.

But changes in attitudes about policies that would reduce carbon emissions are not solely the result of more negative views among Republicans. For instance, the share of Democrats who say they are very or somewhat likely to consider an EV for their next car purchase has declined from 56% to 45% in the last year. And the share of Democrats who call climate change a very big problem for the U.S. has declined from 71% in 2021 to 58% today.

Views within each party
Chart shows Young Republicans give priority to developing renewable energy over fossil fuels in the U.S.

Among Republicans, age matters. Younger Republicans express much more support for renewable energy than do older Republicans. For instance, 67% of Republicans ages 18 to 29 say the country should give priority to wind, solar and hydrogen development. The oldest Republicans (ages 65 and older) take the opposite view: 76% give priority to developing oil, coal and natural gas.

By and large, Democrats are more united in their views on energy. Democrats across age groups broadly support steps that would lower carbon emissions and prioritize renewable sources. But differences emerge over the degree with which to break from fossil fuels: 45% of Democrats say the country should phase out the use of oil, coal and natural gas completely, compared with 53% who say that fossil fuels should remain part of the mix along with renewable sources.

Differences within the two major parties are explored in more detail here.

Views on increasing electric vehicles in the U.S.

Chart shows 58% of Americans oppose rules aimed at dramatically increasing electric vehicle sales in the U.S.

Amid a major policy push at the federal level for electric vehicles, Americans are unenthusiastic about steps that would phase out gas-powered vehicles.

In March of this year, the Biden administration announced a rule aimed at dramatically expanding EV sales. Overall, 58% of Americans say they oppose these rules that would make EVs at least half of all new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. by 2032. Republicans overwhelmingly oppose this policy (83%). Among Democrats, 64% support these rules to expand EV sales, while 35% say they oppose them.

Chart shows Declining share of Americans say they are likely to consider buying an electric vehicle

Americans bought EVs in record numbers last year, but the growth rate is slowing, and interest in EVs has declined. In the current survey, 29% of Americans say they are very or somewhat likely to consider an electric vehicle the next time they purchase a car. Last year, 38% expressed this level of interest in an EV purchase.

Related: About 3 in 10 Americans would seriously consider buying an electric vehicle and the distribution of EV charging stations in the U.S.

Americans’ views on limiting their own ‘carbon footprint’

Discussions about reducing carbon emissions often include the everyday actions people can take to reduce the amount of energy they use. One-in-four Americans say it is extremely or very important to them personally to limit their own “carbon footprint.” Larger shares say this is either somewhat (42%) or not too or not at all (32%) important to them.

Chart shows 1 in 4 Americans say limiting their ‘carbon footprint’ is extremely or very important to them

Even among Democrats – who express broad support for renewable energy – only 39% say reducing their own carbon footprint is extremely or very important to them personally.

These findings align with a previous Center survey that shows a modest share of Americans (23%) expect to make major sacrifices in their own life because of climate change.

Simply put, the shares of Americans who place the highest priority on limiting their own carbon emissions or expect to make big changes to the way they live because of climate change remain relatively small.

Those who place a high priority on reducing their own carbon footprint – or expect major direct impacts from climate change – are far more likely than other Americans to back aggressive steps to reduce carbon emissions.

For instance, 70% of those who place high importance on reducing their own carbon footprint support rules to dramatically boost EV sales in the U.S. by 2032. Much smaller shares of those who say reducing their carbon footprint is somewhat (43%) or not too or not at all (14%) important support this policy.

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