How Americans Feel About Climate Change: An 11-year Perspective
- Dec 27, 2019 1:12 pm GMT
While climate change and global warming have increasingly become important topics for debate and discussion for more than two decades, results from a 2019 survey provide some surprising findings.
The study was first conducted in November 2008 with surveys repeated twice a year. The most recent version of the survey, published in December 2019, is an on-going, collaborative effort by the Yale Program on Climate Change and the George Mason University for Climate Change Communication. The survey’s title: Climate Change in the American Mind: November 2019,” provides an 11-year perspective tapping into the collective American consciousness.
The survey included questions regarding American’s beliefs, emotional responses, and experiences with global warming. The full report and website is available at: https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/climate-change-in-the-american-mind-november-2019/3/.
Participants’ demographics provided a representative cross-section of the American adult population, balanced across men and women, birth generation, education, income, race, and regional residency. Each bi-annual survey averaged more than 1,000 completed results. The November 2019 survey had 1,303 completed results.
Survey Topics and Questions: November 2019 Survey
Participants were asked more than 30 questions in each survey regarding climate change and global warming. Topic areas and representative questions are shown in the following table:
1. Global Warming Beliefs
Do you think global warming is happening?
How sure are you that global warming is/is not happening?
2. Emotional Responses to Global Warming
How worried are you about global warming?
How strongly do you feel each of the following emotions when you think about the issue of global warming: interested, disgusted, helpless, hopeful, angry, afraid, and outraged?
3. Perceived Risks of Global Warming
I have personally experienced the effects of global warming: agree or disagree?
4. Personal and Social Engagement with Global Warming
About how often do you hear about global warming in the media?
About how often do you hear other people you know talk about global warming?
5. Reducing Global Warming
Which of the following comes closest to your view (select from 1 of 5 options)?
6. How Americans Conceptualize Global Warming
In your opinion, do you think global warming is a(n) (respond to 12 types of issues)?
7. Global Warming and Severe Weather
How worried are you that the following might harm your local area (rate 7 types of weather events)?
Highlights from the November 2019 Survey
An important strength of the survey is its long history. Its longitudinal trend data identifies growing concerns and worries about global warming’s potential impact. And, there is an increasing number of Americans who have direct experiences with climate change effects.
In the Global Warming Beliefs questions, a curious and somewhat unexpected set of results are provided: Americans belief in the topic and concept of global warming has changed little from November 2008 to November 2019. While the full data set shows small annual fluctuations, beliefs and certainty about overall global warming, and that global warming is caused by human activities, have remained remarkably stable over this 11-year span, as shown in the chart:
Source: Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Rosenthal, S., Kotcher, J., Bergquist, P., Ballew, M., Goldberg, M., & Gustafson, A. (2019). Climate change in the American mind: November 2019. Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Such findings indicate that Americans have been consistently well aware regarding climate change and global warming for more than 10 years. Correspondingly, human activity, rather than natural environmental changes, is seen to help cause climate effects. These results indicate that global warming and climate change are not short-time or “flash in the pan” concerns—they are a part of the contemporary American consciousness.
The November 2019 survey’s results identify that since November 2008, there has been a consistent belief with Americans that global warming and climate change are occurring. Also, Americans think that more and more of the population is being harmed by global warming and that humans have the ability to affect climate change. Americans want to take actions to mitigate and reduce the influence of global warming. The most important reasons are aligned to:
- Protecting our plants, animals, and the planet’s full environment
- Enabling a better life for today and future generations
- Improving people’s health, both here and abroad.
Get Published - Build a Following
The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.
If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.