The Climate Change in the American Mind Series - Spring 2013

In Spring 2013, we conducted a national survey on Americans’ climate change and energy beliefs, attitudes, policy support, and behavior.

The first report focuses on Americans' beliefs about extreme weather and climate change. We found that about six in ten Americans (58%) say "global warming is affecting weather in the United States." Many Americans believe global warming made recent extreme weather and climatic events "more severe," specifically: 2012 as the warmest year on record in the United States (50%); the ongoing drought in the Midwest and the Great Plains (49%); Superstorm Sandy (46%); and Superstorm Nemo (42%). We also found that about two out of three Americans say weather in the U.S. has been worse over the past several years, up 12 percentage points since Spring 2012. The report can be downloaded here: Extreme Weather and Climate Change in the American Mind, April 2013.

The second report shows that since Fall 2012, the percentage of Americans who believe global warming is happening has dropped 7 points to 63%, likely influenced by the relatively cold winter of 2012-13 and an unusually cold March just before the survey was conducted. 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. Additionally, we found that more Americans believe that “most scientists think global warming is happening” than believe there is widespread disagreement among scientists (42% versus 33%, respectively). The report can be downloaded here: Americans' Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in April 2013.

The third report shows that a large majority of Americans (87%, down 5 percentage points since Fall 2012) say the president and the Congress should make developing sources of clean energy a “very high” (26%), “high” (32%), or medium priority (28%). Majorities of Americans support several policies, such as providing tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (71%), funding more research into renewable energy sources (70%), and regulating CO2 as a pollutant (68%). Support for some of these policies, however, has fallen since 2008, including funding renewable energy research (-21 percentage points) and expanding offshore drilling (-17 points). The report can be downloaded here: Public Support for Climate and Energy Policies in April 2013.

The fourth report shows that half of all Americans at least occasionally consider environmental impacts when deciding whether or not to buy a product. Of these environmentally conscious Americans, 47% say it is "very important" or "essential" that a product is recyclable; 78% say that this is at least somewhat important. Forty-two percent of environmentally conscious consumers consider it very important or essential that a product does not cause damage to the environment; 73% say that this is at least somewhat important. Additionally, nearly four out of ten Americans (38%) say that they would be willing to join a campaign to convince elected officials to do "the right thing" about global warming. The report can be downloaded here: Americans' Actions to Limit Global Warming in April 2013.

The fifth report shows that 24% of Americans would support an organization that engaged in non-violent civil disobedience against corporate or government activities that make global warming worse. Moreover, 13% say they would be willing to personally engage in non-violent civil disobedience for the same reason. Another key finding of the survey is that, in the past year, Americans were more likely to discuss global warming with family and friends (33% did so often or occasionally) than to communicate about it using social media (e.g., 7% shared something about global warming on Facebook or Twitter, 6% posted a comment online in response to a news story or blog about the topic, etc.). The report can be downloaded here: How Americans Communicate About Global Warming, April 2013.