The Climate Change in the American Mind Series - Fall 2012

In Fall 2012, we conducted a national survey on Americans’ climate change and energy beliefs, attitudes, policy support, and behavior.

The first report focused on the 7% of voters who were undecided about the upcoming Presidential election.  The majority of these undecided voters said the candidates’ positions on global warming will be one of several important factors determining how they cast their vote in November. On issues ranging from the reality of global warming to support for the nation taking action to address the problem, we found that undecided voters are much more in sync with likely Obama voters than likely Romney voters. The report can be downloaded here: The Potential Impact of Global Warming on the 2012 Presidential Election.

The second report shows that a large and growing majority of American adults (74%, up 5 points since our spring survey) say “global warming is affecting weather in the United States,” and that the weather in the U.S. has been getting worse over the past several years (61%, up 9 percentage points since spring). Perhaps more startling, one in five Americans (20%) says they have suffered harm to their health, property, and/or finances from an extreme heat wave in the past year (a 6 point increase), and 15 percent say they have suffered harm from a drought in the past year (up 4 points). The report can be downloaded here: Extreme Weather and Climate Change in the American Mind.

The third report shows that Americans’ beliefs about climate change have bounced back sharply from the decline witnessed between 2008 and 2010. Belief in the reality of global warming increased by 13 points since January 2010, to 70 percent in September 2012.  More than half of Americans (54%) believe global warming is caused mostly by human activities, an increase of 8 points since March 2012. Many Americans say people around the world (40%, up 8 points since March 2012) and people in the United States (36%, up 6 points since March) are being harmed right now by climate change, and Americans increasingly perceive global warming as a threat to themselves (42%, up 13 points since March), their families (46%, up 13 points), and other people in their community (48%, up 14 points). The report can be downloaded here: Climate Change in the American Mind – Americans’ Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in September 2012.

The fourth report shows that a growing majority of Americans say the president and Congress should make global warming a priority and that corporations, industry, and citizens themselves should do more to address the issue. A majority of Americans also say they would vote for a candidate who supports a revenue neutral carbon tax 
if it created more jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries, decreased
 pollution, or helped to pay down the national debt. Finally, new questions on "fracking" (a method of extracting natural gas) show that many Americans (39%) have never heard of it, and most (58%) are undecided as to whether or not they support it. The report can be downloaded here: Public Support for Climate and Energy Policies in September 2012.

The fifth report shows that a majority of Americans say they "always" or "often" set their thermostat no higher than 68 degrees during the winter (53 percent), although this is below the highest level reported in November of 2008 (62 percent). A majority of respondents reported that most or all of the lightbulbs in their home were compact fluorescent bulbs. Americans have become less confident, however, that their individual actions to save energy will reduce their own contribution to global warming (32 percent, down 16 points since 2008).  You can download the report here: Americans' Actions to Limit Global Warming in September 2012.

The sixth report from our Fall 2012 survey examines the question: On balance, do political leaders stand to benefit, or not, from talking about and supporting action to address global warming? A key finding from this study is that Independents more closely resemble Democrats in their attitudes and beliefs about global warming, and like Democrats, most support efforts to address the problem. Thus, taking a pro-climate stand creates a political opportunity for elected officials to connect with most Independents. The report can be downloaded here: The Political Benefits of Taking a Pro-Climate Stand in 2013.

The final report from Fall 2012 shows that the Alarmed have grown from 10 percent of the American adult population in 2010 to 16 percent in 2012. At the same time, the Dismissive have decreased in size, from 16 percent in 2010 to 8 percent in 2012. For five of the Six Americas, improved public health now ranks among the top three perceived benefits of the nation taking action to reduce fossil fuel use and global warming. Also, majorities of all Six Americas say the U.S. should increase its use of renewable energy. The report can be downloaded here: Global Warming's Six Americas in September 2012.