Despite COVID Worries, Climate Still A Top Concern For 66% of Americans


A new, nationwide public opinion survey conducted by Yale from April 7-17 found that a record-tying 73% of Americans think global warming is happening and only 10% deny it, but most believe it is happening to others and not to them.  Americans who think global warming is happening outnumber those who think it isn’t by a ratio of about 7 to 1.  The survey also found that two-thirds of Americans (66%) say they are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming, and 45% of Americans think people in the United States are being harmed by global warming “right now”.

Why This Matters:  The pollsters expected they would find that because the public is so concerned about the pandemic that they would not have the ability to maintain their concern about climate change — a theory that social scientists call the “finite pool of worry.”  But that was not the case — though they did see a slight decline in the percentage of Americans who report being “very worried” about climate change since the prior poll in November 2019, in total, the survey results remained consistent with public engagement on climate actually reaching record levels. Most importantly, two-thirds of Americans (66%) feel a personal sense of responsibility to help reduce global warming. Now we must get them to demand policy changes and vote.

Key Takeaways From The Survey

The survey authors pulled out some of the key results, and we culled those down further.  Here are the top takeaways, in our view.

  1. The Public Wants More Information About Climate Change:  Only one in ten Americans (10%) feel “very well informed, even as ”Six in ten Americans (60%) feel at least “fairly well informed” about global warming.
  2. Climate Deniers Are a Small Percentage of the Public:  Only 6% are “extremely” or “very” sure global warming is not happening.  A record-high 54% of Americans are “extremely” or “very” sure global warming is happening.
  3. A Majority of the Public Knows Climate Change Is Anthropogenic: A record-tying 62% of Americans understand that global warming is mostly human-caused. By contrast, about three in ten (29%) think it is due mostly to natural changes in the environment.
  4. We Need to Talk More About Climate Change: More than six in ten Americans (64%) say they “rarely” or “never” discuss global warming with family and friends, while 36% say they do so “occasionally” or “often.”
  5. Americans Are Worried About Food, Extreme Heat, and Water When It Comes To Climate Change: A majority of Americans are worried about harm from extreme events in their local area including extreme heat (66%), droughts (65%), flooding (60%), and water shortages (56%).
  6. They Know We Have Ten Years To Do Something About Climate Change: Many Americans think a variety of health harms, both physical and psychological, will become more common in their community as a result of global warming over the next 10 years if nothing is done to address it.
  7. A Majority Still Don’t Think It Is Happening Now: Only four in ten Americans think people in the United States are being harmed by global warming “right now” (45%) and about the same percentage say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming (44%).
  8. A Majority Believes Climate Change Will Impact Others But Not Them: Only four in ten Americans (43%) think they will be harmed by global warming, while more think their family (46%) and people in their community (49%) will be harmed. Half or more Americans think global warming will harm people in the U.S. (62%), people in developing countries (66%), the world’s poor (67%), future generations of people (73%), and plant and animal species (73%).

To Go Deeper into the Data: You can get the full survey results here.

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