4/21: Threat of Global Warming to Grow, Say Americans

More than seven in ten Americans agree that global warming will be a problem during their lifetime. However, there is less of a consensus on how great a threat it poses, and the results change dramatically when Americans weigh in on the challenges it presents for future generations.



Although 31% of residents nationwide say that global warming will be a major problem for their generation, an even greater proportion — 41% — believes it will be a minor one. 28% do not think it will be a problem for them at all. There’s definitely a Democratic and Republican way to view the earth. Nearly half of Democrats — 48% — say they expect to face major issues associated with global warming in their lifetime compared with just 12% of Republicans. Only 15% of Democrats think global warming will not be an issue for them at all in contrast to 44% of Republicans who feel this way.

Younger residents are more pessimistic about their environmental fate than are their older counterparts. 37% of people under 45 feel global warming will be a major problem for them while 47% say it will be a minor one. This compares with 26% and 37%, respectively, of those 45 or older.

However, there is an across the board spike in concern for future generations. About two-thirds of U.S. residents — 66% — say global warming will be a major problem for future generations. Once again, Democrats are more likely to have this view than are Republicans. Still, a plurality of Republicans — 45% — report the youth of America will face harsh realities of global warming. The proportion of Democrats who share this opinion is nearly double that of Republicans.

Table: Global Warming a Problem in Your Lifetime?

Table: Global Warming a Problem for Future Generations?

Issue in the Spotlight?

A majority of residents nationwide believe they know at least a good amount about global warming. 18% say they know a great deal on the topic while 40% believe they have a good grasp of the issue. More than four in ten Americans — 43% — believe that not enough attention is being given to global warming compared with 26% who feel global warming is receiving too much time in the spotlight. 31% feel the issue is being addressed appropriately. Age matters. 47% of people under 45 years old want more attention to be paid to global warming compared with 40% of those 45 and above who share this view. Region also plays a role. Residents in the Northeast and South are more likely to believe action must be taken to combat global warming compared with those living in the West and Midwest.

Table: Knowledge About Global Warming?

Table: Attention Given to Global Warming?

Personally Protecting the Environment?

So, how much are individuals doing to help the environment? 37% of Americans say they are doing a good or great deal to be eco-friendly; 39% report doing a fair amount while just 4% say they do nothing at all. College graduates tend to do more than do those without a degree, and women outnumber men when going green.

Although 76% of Americans say they fit along the spectrum of doing a fair amount to a great deal to help the environment, 60% of Americans would not label themselves as an environmentalist. Just 21% of the population would call themselves a strong environmentalist.

Table: Amount to Help the Environment?

Table: Consider Yourself Environmentalist?

Economic Protection Trumps Environmental Protection

Given these tough economic times,it is not surprising that nearly half of U.S. residents believe that economic growth should be given priority over the environment even if the environment suffers to some extent. 39% disagree. Most Republicans believe the economy should be priority number one. Democrats and Independents divide. Nearly half of Democrats — 49% — believe the environment should take precedence. A narrow plurality of Independents choose the economy.

Table: Protection of the Environment or Economic Growth

Marist Poll Methodology

Related Links:

Debate Over Climate Risks — Natural or Not

National Climatic Data Center

National Climatic Data Center on Global Warming

Gallup Poll March 2009: For First Time, Americans Put Economy Before Environment

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