Global Warming: A Divide on Causes and Solutions, Public Views Unchanged by Unusual Weather

Public opinion and polls
The Pew Chartable Trusts

President Bush’s mention in his State of
the Union Message of the "serious challenge of global climate change"
was directed at an American public many of whom remain lukewarm about
the importance of the issue. The unusual weather affecting the nation
this winter may have reinforced the widely held view that the
phenomenon of rising temperatures is real (77% of Americans believe
that), but the public continues to be deeply divided over both its
cause and what to do about it. But there is considerably less agreement
over its cause, with about half (47%) saying that human activity, such
as the burning of fossil fuels, is mostly to blame for the earth
getting warmer, according to the Pew Research Center for the People
& the Press.

Moreover, there are indications that
most Americans do not regard global warming as a top-tier issue. In
Pew’s annual list of policy priorities for the president and Congress,
global warming ranked fourth-lowest of 23 items tested, with only about
four-in-ten (38%) rating it a top priority. A survey last year by the
Pew Global Attitudes Project showed that the public’s relatively low
level of concern about global warming sets the U.S. apart from other
countries. That survey found that only 19% of Americans who had heard
of global warming expressed a great deal of personal concern about the
issue. Among the 15 countries surveyed, only the Chinese expressed a
comparably low level of concern (20%).

The latest national survey
by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted
Jan. 10-15 among 1,708 Americans, finds a majority (55%) saying that
global warming is a problem that requires immediate government action.
But the percentage of Americans expressing this view has declined a bit
since August, when 61% felt global warming was a problem that required
an immediate government response.

The survey finds deep
differences between Republicans and Democrats — and within both
political parties — over virtually every issue related to global
warming. These disagreements extend even to the question of whether the
earth is getting warmer. Just 54% of conservative Republicans say there
is solid evidence that average temperatures have been getting warmer
over the past few decades; by contrast, more than three-quarters of
both moderate and liberal Republicans and independents (78% each), and
even higher percentages of Democrats, believe the earth has been
getting warmer.

The political divisions are still greater over
the issue of whether global warming is a problem that requires
immediate government action. About half of moderate and liberal
Republicans (51%) express this view, compared with just 22% of
conservative Republicans. The differences among Democrats are somewhat
smaller; 81% of liberal Democrats, and 61% of moderate and conservative
Democrats, say global warming is a problem that requires immediate
government action.

Education and Party

also are striking educational differences in partisans’ views of global
warming. Among Republicans, higher education is linked to greater
skepticism about global warming — fully 43% of Republicans with a
college degree say that there is no evidence of global warming,
compared with 24% of Republicans with less education.

But among
Democrats, the pattern is the reverse. Fully 75% of Democrats with
college degrees say that there is solid evidence of global warming and
that it is caused by human activities. This is far higher than among
Democrats with less education among whom 52% say the same.
Independents, regardless of education levels, fall in between these
partisan extremes.

Global Warming Not a High Priority

twice as many Democrats as Republicans say that dealing with global
warming should be a top priority for the president and Congress this
year (48% vs. 23%). However, the issue is a relatively low priority for
members of both parties, as well as for independents.

The issue
of dealing with global warming rates near the bottom of the priorities
list for both Democrats and independents, and is the lowest priority
for Republicans. Notably, there is much greater support, across the
political spectrum, for the broader goal of protecting the environment.
Two-thirds of Democrats (67%) view protecting the environment as a top
priority, and it ranks near the middle of their policy priorities list.
Many more independents and Republicans also rate protecting the
environment an important priority than say the same about dealing with
global warming.

About this Survey

for this survey are based on telephone interviews conducted under the
direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International among a
nationwide sample of 1,708 adults, 18 years of age or older, from
January 10-15, 2007. For results based on the total sample, one can say
with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling is plus or
minus 3 percentage points. For results based on January 11-15, 2007
(N=1,384), the sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question
wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce
error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

View charts at the Pew Research Center’s Web site.

No Responses to “Global Warming: A Divide on Causes and Solutions, Public Views Unchanged by Unusual Weather”

  1. Hey
    I am enlightened! I hold 2 degrees from liberal universities, but I DID take courses in historical geology, and this leads me to believe that the global warming hype is designed solely to make people like you, jeffrey immelt and algore filthy rich. Our planet has gone through shifts like this over the eons, (incidentally without human activity).Maybe knowledge of our planets’ ancient history should be taught to everyone, then even more people would be suspicious of your efforts. Stop trying to play GOD, He doesn’t like it!

Leave a Reply