On Eve of Glasgow, Polls Show Americans Concerned, Still Divided on Climate

October 26, 2021

I posted recently on the spike in climate concern among Americans – new polling adds nuance on the eve of the COP 26 meeting in Glasgow, as congress scrambles to provide the US with a coherent policy.

Even Republican officials, with an eye especially to key demographics like women, hispanics, and the young, are scrambling to come up with a “me too” position on climate – the subject of an upcoming video.

2 new polls in particular point to the somewhat fuzzy gap between those who understand climate change is happening, and who also understand the human causes.

Associated Press:

President Joe Biden heads to a vital U.N. climate summit at a time when a majority of Americans regard the deteriorating climate as a problem of high importance to them, an increase from just a few years ago.

About 6 out of 10 Americans also believe that the pace of global warming is speeding up, according to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago

As Biden struggles to pass significant climate legislation at home ahead of next week’s U.N. climate summit, the new AP-NORC/EPIC poll also shows that 55% of Americans want Congress to pass a bill to ensure that more of the nation’s electricity comes from clean energy and less from climate-damaging coal and natural gas. 

Only 16% of Americans oppose such a measure for electricity from cleaner energy. A similar measure initially was one of the most important parts of climate legislation that Biden has before Congress. But Biden’s proposal to reward utilities with clean energy sources and penalize those without ran into objections from a coal-state senator, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, leaving fellow Democrats scrambling to come up with other ways to slash pollution from burning fossil fuels.

In all, 59% of Americans said the Earth’s warming is very or extremely important to them as an issue, up from 49% in 2018. Fifty-four percent of Americans cited scientists’ voices as having a large amount of influence on their views about climate change, and nearly as many, 51%, said their views were influenced by recent extreme weather events like hurricanesdeadly heat spellswildfires and other natural disasters around the world.

Seventy-five percent of Americans believe that climate change is happening, while 10% believe that it is not, the poll found. Another 15% are unsure. 

Among those who say it is happening, 54% say that it’s caused mostly or entirely by human activities compared to just 14% who think — incorrectly, scientists say — that it’s caused mainly by natural changes in the environment. Another 32% of Americans believe it’s a mix of human and natural factors.

And while Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say climate change is happening, majorities of both parties agree that it is. That breaks down to 89% of Democrats and and 57% of Republicans.

The poll also gauged Americans’ willingness to pay for the cost of cutting climate-wrecking pollution as well as mitigating its consequences. 

Fifty-two percent said they would support a $1 a month carbon fee on their energy bill to fight climate change, but support dwindles as the fee increases.

Another poll from Vice News/Guardian muddies things.

Vice News:

Nearly half of Americans still don’t think climate change is caused by human activities, but Democrats were far less likely than Republicans to hold those views, a new VICE News and Guardian poll has found. 

The poll, which surveyed 1,000 Americans on behalf of VICE News, the Guardian, and Covering Climate Now, by YouGov, comes less than a week before leaders and delegates from around the world meet in Glasgow, Scotland, for COP26, the United Nations’ climate change conference. The data shows that climate change is a top voter issue in the U.S., behind health care and social programs. For college grads and Democrats, climate change jumped to top spot (for Democrats it was tied with health care).

But while 69.5 percent of respondents believe global warming is happening, they were divided on what’s causing it. Forty-five percent don’t think humans are mostly to blame for global warming, opting instead to blame “natural changes in the environment” or “other,” and 8.3 percent denied global warming is happening altogether. 

That’s mostly due to Republicans (55.4 percent) and independents (33 percent) though, who were far more likely than Democrats (17.2 percent) to believe “natural causes” have led to global warming. Young people and educated folks too were significantly more likely to believe humans are to blame for climate change.

A significant group of people also believe scientists don’t see eye to eye. Many respondents (30.5 percent) think there’s a raging scientific debate over the cause of climate change when there really isn’t. Globally, there is consensus among scientists—97 percent or more—that global warming is happening because of human activities, according to NASA and international science societies

But again, this number is split by political affiliation. Exactly half of Republicans said they believe there is discord between scientists, compared to only about 14.9 percent of Democrats. 

The poll suggests most people think oil and gas companies are to blame for climate change, as opposed to the government, the meat industry, retail, and individuals. But Democrats (83.4 percent) were far more likely than Republicans (27.8 percent) to place most of the blame on the oil industry, as were Black and Latinx folks over white people and other races. 

8 Responses to “On Eve of Glasgow, Polls Show Americans Concerned, Still Divided on Climate”

  1. jimbills Says:

    This recent Yahoo/YouGov poll might be the same as the Vice one, but it says it had a sample of 1,704 people – not 1,000:

    It correlates with the Vice results.

    To me, anyone that doesn’t think we need urgent action now doesn’t really understand climate change, and just 50% of that poll (and 1/4 of Republicans) think we need urgent action.

    But here’s the real crux politically with these polls, and someone needs to start incorporating this in the results – the opinions about climate change vary wildly between urban/coastal and rural/heartland areas. There are probably a lot of Republicans in NYC who think climate change is a real problem, and very few Republicans in Kansas who think that. A political representative of the rural areas simply isn’t going to support climate change legislation if the vast majority of their voters don’t think it’s a problem.

    Compounding the issue, Congress over-represents the rural areas over the urban areas:

    That, plus procedural issues like the filibuster, prevents real action from happening. It looks like Manchin is going to get his way and absolutely gut the climate parts of BBB. There will be a handful of tax credits and other things, and the liberals are going to have to accept that to get the social programs. And – that’s the absolute best we can expect from the ‘exceptional’ U.S. right now.

  2. redskylite Says:

    Opinion polls are just a snapshot of fickle human answers, at the mercy of the way the questions are worded and placed (and by whom). The results can be surreal and misleading as Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence”.

    Why on Earth in the 21st Century are we still held back by opinion, when scientists, journalists, activists have put so much effort into trying to educate the masses ?

    Don’t they realize we are in overtime, this is an emergency because of past complacency.?

    Divided on opinion is just not good enough.

    It will not wash.

    “The world is on track for a ‘catastrophic’ 2.7C temperature rise this century, UN report warns”


    “Most governments have so far failed to prioritize a transformative low-carbon recovery, with the relatively insignificant low-carbon investment announced to date likely to maintain current unsustainable situations.”


    • redskylite Says:

      “As the governments of almost 200 nations prepare for a pivotal meeting on climate change, scientists have expressed their fears over global warming and lacklustre efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.”


      “Climate tipping points are a game-changing risk—an existential threat—and we need to do everything within our power to avoid them.”


    • Dear Peter Sinclair and redskylite,

      I enjoyed your respective contributions to the discussion on climate. The world ecological crisis is already upon us. I have attempted to sum up and reflect deeply the state of affairs in my extensive and analytical post entitled “💬 Misquotation Pandemic and Disinformation Polemic: 🧠 Mind Pollution by Viral Falsity 🦠“, particularly in the last section named “Denouement: Democracy, Education, Legislation & Sustainability“, which has been revised and vastly expanded.

      The age of Anthropocene could indeed be a very short one, as humanity seems to be plunging headlong into creating and facing a ghastly future.

      Yours sincerely,

  3. redskylite Says:

    ‘Save your species’: UN uses dinosaur in fossil fuel message

    The United Nations is summoning an unusual “witness” to testify to the dangers of burning fossil fuels that stoke global warming: a dinosaur.


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