Sea Change in Public Attitudes Toward Global Warming Emerges
Climate Change Seen as Big a Threat as Terrorism
NEW HAVEN, Conn.—A new Yale research survey reveals a significant shift in public attitudes toward the environment and global warming. Fully 83 percent of Americans now say global warming is a “serious” problem, up from 70 percent in 2004. More Americans than ever say they have serious concerns about environmental threats, such as toxic soil and water (92 percent, up from 85 percent in 2004), deforestation (89 percent, up from 78 percent), air pollution (93 percent, up from 87 percent) and the extinction of wildlife (83 percent, up from 72 percent in 2005).
Most dramatically, the survey of 1,000 adults nationwide shows that 63 percent of Americans agree that the United States “is in as much danger from environmental hazards, such as air pollution and global warming, as it is from terrorists.” It reveals growing concern about dependence on Middle Eastern oil, with 96 percent of the public saying this is a serious problem. As a result, the public overwhelmingly supports increasing the use of alternative energy, including solar and wind power, as well as investing more in energy efficiency.
The survey indicates that while 70 percent of Americans believe that President Bush doesn’t do enough for the environment and should do more, many citizens are ready to act on their own. Seventy-five percent recognize that their own behavior can help to reduce global warming, and 81 percent believe it is their responsibility to do so.
The results further suggest that many Americans want greener products and are ready to spend money to try new technologies that will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Seventy percent of the public indicates a willingness to buy solar panels, and 67 percent would consider buying a hybrid car.
To: Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy
From: Global Strategy Group
Re: 2007 Environment Survey – Key Findings
Date: March 5, 2007
The 2007 Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy Survey on American Attitudes on the Environment reveals that Americans want action on global warming and energy conservation – and most agree that they have a responsibility to do their part.
• Close to two-thirds (63%) of Americans agree that our country “is in as much danger from environmental hazards such as air pollution and global warming as it is from terrorists.”
– Women (70%) are more likely to agree with this statement than are men (56%).
• The percentage of Americans who say global warming is a serious problem has risen to 83% from 70% in 2004.
– Slightly fewer Americans (79%) are concerned about ‘climate change,’ though concern about this issue has increased from 61% in 2004.
• More than two out of three (68%) Americans agree that global warming is something people can control. And fully 81% agree with the statement, “It is my responsibility to help reduce the impacts of global warming.”
– 62% of Americans agree that we need more laws to enforce energy efficiency.
– 87% agree that they look for new ways to save energy.
– 90% adjust the temperature in their house to save energy.
– Just 27% agree that “the need to conserve energy is exaggerated.”
• Two of three Americans (67%) say that, if they had to, they could explain global warming or climate change “to someone I meet in passing.”
– Men (71%), younger Americans age 18-44 (74%) and college graduates (76%) are more likely than women (63%) or seniors (55%) to say they could explain global warming to others.
• Just 33% of Americans say they are familiar with the phrase “carbon neutral.”
– Younger Americans and those between the ages 45 and 64 are more likely (36% and 34%, respectively) to say they are familiar with the term than are seniors (26%).
– Men (38%) are more likely to say they are familiar with “carbon neutral” than are women (27%).
– Just 39% of college graduates are familiar with the phrase.
The National outlook is worsening
• Nearly two-thirds (62%) of Americans believe the environment in the United States is getting worse. Just 11% think it is getting better. In 2005, 52% believed the environment was getting worse and 15% thought it was getting better.
– Women continue to be more downbeat about the direction of the environment than are men. 67% of women (up from 56% in 2005) believe the environment is getting worse, while 56% of men believe it is getting worse (compared to 47% in 2005).
• Just one in three Americans (33%) rate the overall quality of the environment in the United States as excellent or good. 65% rate the country’s environment as only fair or poor.
– In 2004 and 2005 surveys, 39% rated the overall quality of the environment in the United States as excellent or good.
• Fully 70% of Americans say President Bush doesn’t do enough for the environment and should do more. 53% say President Bush should do ‘much more.’ In our 2005 survey, 63% believed the President wasn’t doing enough for the environment.
– Compared to data from the 2004 and 2005 surveys, fewer Americans trust President Bush as a source of information about environmental issues. Just 37% say they trust President Bush at least somewhat, while as recently as 2005, the president was trusted by more than half of Americans (52% in both 2004 and 2005).
• The most-trusted sources of information about environmental issues are:
– Scientists at major universities (trusted by 76%),
– Universities (74%),
– The Environmental Protection Agency (63%, but down from 73% in 2004), and
– Industry scientists (56%).
• Nightly television news is trusted by 50% of Americans, but this is down significantly from 2004, when 69% of Americans said they trusted the television news as a source of information about the environment. 23% say they do not trust the nightly television news at all – up from 13% in 2004.
– Major newspapers have also taken a major hit. In 2004, two-thirds of Americans trusted major newspapers as sources of information about environmental issues. Today, just 45% of Americans say they trust newspapers. Fully 27% say they do not trust major newspapers at all – up from just 16% in 2004.
• When it comes to the environment, Democrats in Congress are slightly more trusted than Republicans in Congress, 45% to 39%. Both parties’ numbers are down significantly since 2004, when 57% trusted the Democrats in Congress, and 49% trusted Republicans.
Top Concerns: Dependence on Imported Oil
• Americans continue to be nearly unanimous in the belief that dependence on imported oil is a very serious problem. Fully 93% say it is a serious problem and 70% say it is a ‘very’ serious problem.
• The most popular remedy to America’s dependence on imported oil is to require the auto industry to make cars that get better gas mileage. 94% of Americans say this is a good idea. 61% say it is a ‘very good’ idea.
• 90% of Americans support building more wind-turbine farms, and 90% say it is a good idea to build more solar power facilities.
– 86% want increased funding for renewable energy research.
Americans are more interested than ever in higher-mileage and hybrid cars
• In 2005, 23% of Americans said they would ‘never’ buy a hybrid car. Today, just 13% say they would never buy a hybrid.
• 78% of Americans (and 86% of men age 18-54) would consider buying a vehicle powered by an alternative fuel like ethanol.
• 37% of Americans say they would never buy an S.U.V., down from 43% in 2005.
– 46% say they have bought or would consider buying an S.U.V., compared to 42% in 2005.
• 56% of Americans believe it is a bad idea to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration and drilling.
• 86% of Americans think it is a good idea to increase funding for renewable energy research.
– 90% think building more solar power facilities is a good idea for reducing U.S. dependence on imported oil.
ABOUT THE POLL
The nationwide survey of 1017 American adults was conducted on behalf of the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy by Global Strategy Group from February 5-11, 2007.
• The survey was conducted using professional phone interviewers.
• The nationwide sample was drawn from a random digit dial (RDD) process.
• Respondents were screened on the basis of age, i.e., to be over the age of 18.
• The survey has an overall margin of error of ±3.07% at the 95% confidence level. That is, if the same survey were conducted among similar respondents, the results would fall within the range of ±3.07% in 19 out of 20 cases.