Sixty-one percent in a new national survey also say the federal government should be doing “a great deal” or “a lot” about global warming, up 8 points since 2015 to the most since 2009. A mere 10 percent say the government in fact is doing that much – down 5 points in three years.

See PDF for full results, charts and tables.

Public backs action on global warming - but with cost concerns and muted urgency

STOCK Photo/Getty ImagesA melting glacier is pictured in this undated stock photo.

Public backs action on global warming - but with cost concerns and muted urgency

That said, three-quarters of Americans express concern that efforts to address the issue will raise prices on things they buy and just two in 10 are very confident that those efforts in fact would reduce global warming. The latter, in particular, contributes to an absence of broad urgency on the issue. Just a narrow majority, 53 percent, favors immediate action over more study. And many of those who back some policies think they should be voluntary, not mandated.

The random-sample survey was produced by ABC News, Stanford University’s Political Psychology Research Group and Resources for the Future, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank focused on economic, environmental, energy and natural resource issues, with design, management and analysis for ABC by Langer Research Associates. It extends more than 20 years of research into attitudes on global warming by the Political Psychology Research Group at Stanford University — previously at Ohio State University — led by Prof. Jon Krosnick.

Public backs action on global warming - but with cost concerns and muted urgency

STOCK PHOTO/Getty ImagesLos Angeles covered in smog in this undated photo.

In the political realm, 57 percent disapprove of Trump’s handling of global warming overall and 62 percent oppose his planned withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. Strength of sentiment is broadly against him: Just 19 percent strongly approve of his handling of global warming, while 44 percent strongly disapprove. On the climate treaty, he has 23 percent strong support for his position, vs. 48 percent strongly opposed.

Public backs action on global warming - but with cost concerns and muted urgency

It’s unclear how much weight the issue of global warming may carry in the November elections. Fourteen percent of registered voters both support robust government action and call the issue extremely important in their choice of candidates – enough to matter, especially in a close contest. That said, just 8 percent in this group are Republicans; 65 percent are Democrats (and 57 percent are liberals), and the remaining independents lean Democratic by a wide margin. As such, the GOP’s exposure among its customary supporters looks quite limited.

That said, 48 percent call the issue highly important to them more generally, up 6 points from 2015 and 5 points above the average since 1997. Twenty percent call it extremely important, a new high.


Among additional findings from the wide-ranging survey:

• Seventy-two percent of Americans feel they know a great deal or a moderate amount about global warming, up 6 points from 2015 to the most in Stanford surveys since 1997. Self-reported awareness has grown from 43 to 72 percent across this 21-year period.

• Seventy-four percent say global temperatures have been rising in the past 100 years, matching the 21-year average. (This is up 5 points from 2015, but off its peak, 85 percent in 2006.) Eighty-one percent think this either is mostly because of human activities, or about equally because of human and natural causes, dividing about evenly between the two.

Public backs action on global warming - but with cost concerns and muted urgency

• While 57 percent are confident that government action would in fact reduce global warming, just 19 percent are very confident of this. And while 70 percent of those who are not registered to vote are confident, this falls to 53 percent of registered voters. As noted, confidence in solutions can be a precursor to motivation to act.

Further, while 53 percent call global warming an “urgent problem that requires immediate government action,” that leaves 44 percent who instead call it a longer-term problem requiring further study first. And just a bare majority, 51 percent, foresees a very serious problem to the United States if nothing is done to reduce global warming in the future, although that’s 5 points more than the average in eight surveys since 2006.

Public backs action on global warming - but with cost concerns and muted urgency

• Criticism of the oil industry is widespread: Seventy-nine percent think major oil companies engaged in a cover-up of their products’ role in global warming, with broad majority agreement across partisan and ideological lines, a relative rarity. Far fewer, meanwhile, think climate scientists have exaggerated the problem – 30 percent overall, but, in a return to form, soaring to 68 percent among strong conservatives.

• Taxes that raise electricity or gas prices to try to decrease consumption are not popular, and 74 percent express concern about the impact of climate change regulation on the prices they pay for things generally. Even among Democrats and liberals, six in 10 oppose higher taxes on electricity.

Business- rather than consumer-focused actions earn more support. Seventy-eight percent say the government should limit the amount of greenhouse gases that companies put out. (It was similar, 81 percent, in 2013.) Sixty-eight percent favor taxing companies based on their release of greenhouse gases, and if the fuel is imported from other countries, support rises to 78 percent. These are up 7 and 11 points, respectively, compared with similar questions asked in 2015, in a survey by The New York Times, Stanford and RFF.

• Trump’s support for the oil and coal industries does not reflect the public’s priorities. Americans by 70-21 percent say the better way for the government to encourage job creation is by developing the renewable energy industry rather than by protecting the traditional energy industry. Fifty-three percent strongly favor backing renewables, vs. just 12 percent who strongly favor focusing on traditional energy.

In current news, demonstrators, particularly young people, are expected in Washington next Saturday in a march supporting action on global warming. The survey confirms some differences among age groups. At the most basic level, 81 percent of 18- to 39-year-olds say global temperatures have risen in the past century, vs. 68 percent of those 50 and older.

Support for substantial government action ranges from 70 percent of those 18-39 to 54 percent of those 50-plus. Young people also are much more confident in such action, 71 vs. 48 percent; and more apt to see serious risks to the United States if it’s not taken, 61 vs. 44 percent.


Chiefly, though, wide partisan and ideological differences mark many public attitudes on global warming, as is typical. In one important example, high levels of trust in what scientists say about the environment – a key predictor of other global warming attitudes – ranges from 58 percent among Democrats to just 32 percent of independents and 22 percent of Republicans. At the most extreme, 74 percent of strongly liberal Americans express this level of trust in environmental scientists, while a mere 6 percent of strong conservatives agree.

Such divisions cross the spectrum from policy preferences even to observations about cl