Three Climate Polls: Do You ‘Believe In’ Warming


WASHINGTON, DC, December 24, 2009 (ENS) – More than 80 percent of Americans surveyed in a new public opinion poll support action to limit the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and move the U.S. toward a clean energy future.

Results of the national telephone survey released Wednesday by the National Wildlife Federation show that 82 percent of voters and 80 percent of Independents questioned support the U.S. government increasing investment in clean energy sources.

A lower percentage, but still a strong majority, support curbing greenhouse gas emissions. The poll shows that 67 percent of voters and 67 percent of Independents, support the U.S. government limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that may cause global warming.

“The American people can’t be more clear when it comes to solving global warming: they want the U.S. to be Rudolph out in front of the sleigh, leading the world toward a clean energy future,” said Jeremy Symons, senior vice president of the National Wildlife Federation.

“There is overwhelming public support for the Senate to pass legislation with firm limits on carbon pollution that will stimulate massive new investments in clean energy technologies,” Symons said.

The survey also showed that the majority of respondents believe global warming is happening despite recent controversies surrounding emails among climate scientists, though there is a strong partisan divide.

Democrats and Independents overwhelmingly acknowledging global warming is real, while Republicans remain significantly less united in their skepticism.

Two-thirds of registered voters (67 percent) believe global warming is happening, just 31 percent do not think global warming is happening.

  • Among Democrats: 91 percent believe global warming is happening, eight percent do not
  • Among Independents: 64 percent believe, 32 percent do not
  • Among Republicans: 43 percent believe, 54 percent do not

The poll was conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group. 1,000 interviews were conducted with registered voters nationwide from December 12 to 15.

Coal-fired power plant in Asheville, North Carolina emits greenhouse gases, as do all coal-burning generating stations. (Photo courtesy Babcock & Wilcox)

A separate survey released December 16 by right wing broadcaster Fox News finds that a 63 percent majority of those surveyed say they believe in global warming – a percentage roughly parallel to the 67 percent of respondents in the National Wildlife Federation poll who said they believe global warming is happening.

But compared with earlier years, the Fox poll shows respondents believing in global warming is down six points from 69 percent earlier this year, and down from a high of 82 percent in 2007.

Just over half of respondents (51 percent) said they believe that global warming is caused either by human behavior alone (33 percent), or by both people and climate patterns (18 percent).

Less than a third (29 percent) of respondents, believe global warming is caused naturally (11 percent attribute global warming to climate patterns and 18 percent both human behavior and climate patterns).

Among groups, women (58 percent) are somewhat more likely than men (50 percent), and young people under age 30 (59 percent) are more likely than seniors 65 and over (50 percent), to “believe in man-made global warming,” the Fox poll shows.

Democrats (78 percent) are more than twice as likely as Republicans (32 percent) and significantly more likely than independents (54 percent) to believe it exists.

The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from December 8 to December 9. The poll was conducted for a program broadcast on December 20, “Fox News Reporting: Global Warming…Or Hot Air?”

Another survey published in October by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press also found a decline over the past year in the percentage of Americans who say there is solid evidence that global temperatures are rising.

Fewer also see global warming as a very serious problem. The Pew survey found 35% of respondents to the October survey said warming is a serious problem, down from 44% in April 2008.

Over the same period, there has been a comparable decline in the proportion of Americans who say global temperatures are rising as a result of human activity, such as burning fossil fuels. Just 36% say that currently, down from 47% last year.

The decline in the belief in solid evidence of global warming has come across the political spectrum, but has been particularly pronounced among independents, the Pew poll found.

Just 53% of Independents surveyed by Pew now see solid evidence of global warming, compared with 75% who did so in April 2008.

Republicans, who already were highly skeptical of the evidence of global warming, have become even more so: just 35% of Republicans questioned now see solid evidence of rising global temperatures, down from 49% in 2008 and 62% in 2007.

Fewer Democrats also express this view – 75% in October compared with 83% last year.

Despite the growing public skepticism about global warming, the Pew survey finds more support than opposition for a policy to set limits on carbon emissions.

Half of Americans favor setting limits on carbon emissions and making companies pay for their emissions, even if this may lead to higher energy prices; 39% oppose imposing limits on carbon emissions under these circumstances.

This issue has not registered widely with the public, Pew pollsters found. Just 14% say they have heard a lot about the so-called “cap and trade” policy that would set carbon dioxide emissions limits and allow trading of emissions permits. Another 30% say they have heard a little about the policy, while a majority (55%) has heard nothing at all.

The small minority that has heard a lot about the issue opposes carbon emissions limits by two-to-one (64% to 32%). More Republicans (20%) and independents (17%) than Democrats (8%) have heard a lot about cap and trade.

Among the much larger group that has head little or nothing about the issue, most support it (50% little, 58% nothing).

Conservative Republicans are the only political group in which a majority (60%) opposes setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions. Most moderate and liberal Republicans (51%) favor this policy, as do an identical percentage of independents and a majority of Democrats (58%).

Pew pollsters found wide regional differences in opinions about cap and trade.

More people living near the Pacific coast (62%) and the Northeast (56%) favor limiting carbon emissions, even if it may mean higher energy prices, than those living in the South (46%), Midwest (44%) and Mountain West (42%).

More college graduates favor this policy than those with a high school education or less (59% vs. 43%), but there are very few differences by age.

Opinion about cap and trade is related to views about global warming. About three-fourths (74%) of those who think the Earth is warming and it is mostly caused by human activity favor cap and trade legislation. By comparison, 41% of those who say warming is due to natural patterns in the Earth’s environment favor limiting carbon emissions. But even 31% of those who say there is no solid evidence of rising temperatures favor cap and trade.

The national telephone survey by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press was conducted September 30 to October 4 among 1,500 adults. The margin of error in all three polls was roughly three percent.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.

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