TODAY’S STUDY: Climate change awareness rising
As Americans Experienced the Warmest May on Record Their Acceptance of Global Warming Reaches a New High
Christopher Borick, Barry G. Rabe, Natalie B. Fitzpatrick, Sarah B. Mills, July 2018 (Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy/University of Michigan and Institute of Public Opinion/Muhlenberg College)
Over the course of the last 10 years the National Surveys on Energy and the Environment (NSEE) has fielded 19 surveys in which Americans have been asked if they believe there is solid evidence of global warming. In the latest version of this ongoing research initiative from the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College, a larger percentage of Americans reported that there is solid evidence of global warming than at any time since the survey began in the fall of 2008. This record level of acceptance of global warming came as the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that May of 2018 was the warmest in the continental United States since records began to be kept in 18951 .
The most recent NSEE survey, which was fielded through late April and much of May of 2018, found that 73% of Americans now think there is solid evidence of global warming. This 73% level of acceptance surpassed the previous record level of 72% that was found in the initial NSEE survey during the fall of 2008, and marks the fifth straight survey that at least 70% of Americans think that there is evidence that temperatures on the planet are rising. As can be seen in Figure 1, only 15% of Americans report that they do not think there is solid evidence of global warming, matching the lowest level previously found in the Spring of 2016.
The record level of acceptance of global warming by Americans was accompanied by the highest percentage of Americans that believe human activity is at least partially responsible for the warming that is being experienced. The most recent NSEE found 60% of Americans believe that humans are either primarily (34%) or partially responsible (26%) for the warming of the planet. The 60% level of belief that humans are contributing to global warming surpasses the previous record of 58% that was established in NSEE waves in 2008, 2009 and 2017 (see Figure 2)
The role of party affiliation in determining American views on the existence and causes of global warming has been one of the most salient findings of NSEE studies over the past decade. The divide between Democrats, Republicans and independents in regards to multiple aspects of global warming has been significant over the past decade and the most recent findings indicate this divide is large and modestly widening. In terms of acceptance of global warming the divide between Democrats and Republicans in the latest NSEE iteration was as large as anytime in the last decade with a 40% gap: 90% of Democrats think there is solid evidence of global warming while 50% of Republicans maintain this same view (see Figure 3). This 40% difference matches the previous record divide that was measured in the spring of 2012.
The Spring 2018 NSEE findings also indicate significant divides between Democrats and Republicans on the underlying causes of global warming. While the latest findings show a record 78% of Democrats now believe that global warming is happening and humans are at least partially responsible for the increased temperatures (see Figure 4), only 35% of Republicans maintain the same beliefs (see Figure 5). Notably, a smaller percentage (35%) of Republicans now believe that humans are at least somewhat responsible for global warming than a decade ago when 39% of those affiliating with the GOP maintained that position…