Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans' Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in April 2013

29 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2015

See all articles by Anthony Leiserowitz

Anthony Leiserowitz

Yale University

Edward W. Maibach

George Mason University - Center for Climate Change Communication

Connie Roser-Renouf

George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication

Geoff Feinberg

Yale University

Peter Howe

Yale University - School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Date Written: April 1, 2013

Abstract

This report is based on findings from a nationally representative survey – Climate Change in the American Mind – conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. Interview dates: April 8-15. Interviews: 1,045 Adults (18+). Total average margin of error: +/- 3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Key findings include:

• Nearly two in three Americans (63%) believe global warming is happening. Relatively few – only 16 percent – believe it is not. However, since Fall 2012, the percentage of Americans who believe global warming is real has dropped 7 points to 63%, likely influenced by the relatively cold winter of 2012-13 (compared to the prior year) and an unusually cold March just before the survey was conducted. !In March of 2012, after an unusually warm winter, 66 percent of Americans believed global warming was happening; thus, seasonal effects may account for at least some of the change we observe.

• Those who believe global warming is happening are more certain of their convictions than those who do not. Of the 63% of Americans who believe global warming is happening, most say they are “very” (33%) or “extremely sure” (27%). By contrast, of the unconvinced, fewer are very (28%) or extremely sure of their view (18%).

• About half of Americans (49%) believe global warming – if it is happening – is caused mostly by human activities, a decrease of 5 points since Fall 2012, but similar to levels stretching back several years.

• More Americans believe that “most scientists think global warming is happening” than believe there is widespread disagreement among scientists (42% versus 33%, respectively). One in five Americans (20%) continue to feel they “don’t know enough to say” and fewer than one in 20 (4%) believe that “most scientists think global warming is not happening.”

• About half of Americans (51%) say they are “somewhat” or “very worried” about global warming, a 7 percentage-point decline in worry since Fall 2012.

• At least four out of ten Americans say global warming will harm people in their community (45%), their family (44%), or themselves (42%). Though Americans today, compared to Fall 2012, are slightly less likely to perceive these threats of harm, they are much more likely to do so today than they were a year ago.

• Global warming is also perceived as a threat to people in developing countries (55%, down 9 points since September 2012, but similar to March 2012), in other modern industrialized countries (53%, down 4 points since September, but up 4 points since March 2012), and in the United States (52%, down 5 points since September, but up 6 points since March 2012).

• Today, four in ten Americans say people around the world are being harmed right now by climate change (38%), while 34 percent say global warming is currently harming people in the United States.

Keywords: Climate Change, Public Opinion, United States

Suggested Citation

Leiserowitz, Anthony and Maibach, Edward W. and Roser-Renouf, Connie and Feinberg, Geoff and Howe, Peter, Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans' Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in April 2013 (April 1, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2298705 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2298705

Anthony Leiserowitz

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

Edward W. Maibach (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Center for Climate Change Communication ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Connie Roser-Renouf

George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Geoff Feinberg

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

Peter Howe

Yale University - School of Forestry and Environmental Studies ( email )

New Haven, CT 06511
United States

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