EPC Resource Library / Weekly Roundups

Environmental Polling Roundup – April 26, 2024





Americans widely agree that the U.S. should take action to try to slow or stop climate change. Seven in ten Americans (70%) support the U.S. “taking steps to try to slow or stop the rate of climate change,” including nine in ten Democrats (91%), two-thirds of independents (68%), and around half of Republicans (48%).

Those who support climate action don’t believe it can wait. When asked when people should address the issue of climate change, just over half of Americans (52%) say that action should happen “right now.” 

Far fewer say that the issue should be addressed in the next few years (17%) or further in the future (11%). Meanwhile, only one-fifth (20%) say that the issue doesn’t need to be addressed at any point. 

Americans – and young Americans in particular – are mostly in the dark about what the Biden administration is doing on climate change. Only half of Americans (50%) say that they have heard “some” or “a lot” about what the Biden administration has done so far to deal with climate change, including just 14% who say that they’ve heard “a lot” about it.

Awareness of the Biden administration’s climate actions is particularly low among younger Americans, with only 40% of those aged 18-29 saying that they’ve heard at least “some” about the Biden administration’s actions on the issue. Awareness is also relatively low among Black Americans (43%) and Hispanic Americans (40%), two audiences who also express consistently high support for climate action. 

Biden’s environmental accomplishments are well-received, particularly clean water protections and home energy efficiency incentives. While Americans have little familiarity with Biden’s climate and environmental record, his major policy actions on these issues tend to poll well when people hear about them.

Here, CBS News and YouGov find that more Americans support than oppose each of Biden’s environmental actions that they asked about. These include:

Democrats and Republicans tend to hold contrasting views about the impacts of climate action on the economy. Overall, Americans are slightly more likely to say that efforts to reduce climate change will mostly help the nation’s economy (36%) than hurt the nation’s economy (32%). However, at the individual level, they are more likely to say that efforts to reduce climate change will hurt (34%) than help (22%) their personal finances and cost of living.

Beneath the surface, there is deep partisan polarization over the economics of climate change. Most Democrats (60%) believe that efforts to reduce climate change will help the economy, while most Republicans (55%) say that these efforts will hurt the economy.

In terms of personal finances, Democrats are also relatively more likely to believe that climate action will have a positive impact (36% help / 15% hurt) while Republicans are much more pessimistic (12% help / 52% hurt).

It’s important to keep making the connection between extreme weather and climate change, especially as temperatures rise. The majority of Americans (54%) say that hearing about the earth experiencing the warmest temperatures on record makes them more concerned about climate change.

Meanwhile, extreme weather has become a salient issue for much of the country: half of Americans (50%) say that their area has experienced more extreme weather events in recent years, and around one-third (35%) say that people in their community have “suffered significant damage to their property” due to events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, or high temperatures.

There is also a general sense that climate change is contributing to extreme weather, as half of Americans (51%) believe that climate change is a “major” factor behind more severe extreme weather events in the U.S. these days and an additional 28% believe that climate change is a “minor” factor. 

While Democrats (73%) are much more likely than Republicans (27%) to see climate change as a “major” factor behind extreme weather, the majority of Republicans (62%) still recognize that climate change is at least a “minor” factor in these events.

Steady majorities of Americans support climate action at the government, corporate, and individual levels. Ipsos finds that majorities of Americans agree with each of the following statements, with little change from Ipsos’s previous polling for Earth Day last year:

Few Americans agree with opposition arguments that it’s “too late” to address climate change or that action won’t make a difference. Ipsos also gauged reactions to several rationales for delaying or refusing to act on climate change, finding that few Americans agree with them. These negative statements include:

However, the public isn’t as quick to reject the argument that we should delay climate action for economic reasons. Americans are more split in response to the negative rationale that “now is not the right time to be investing in measures to reduce climate change given the tough economic conditions” (33% agree / 36% disagree), underlining how important it is to convince the public of the economic benefits of climate action. 

Clean water is consistently Americans’ top environmental priority. Consistent with previous polling by Gallup and others, more Americans express concerns about drinking water pollution than any other environmental issue. Below are the percentages of Americans who say that they worry “a great deal” about each of the environmental problems that Gallup asked about:

Few Americans believe that the government can prioritize environmental protection too much. Only 19% of Americans say that the U.S. government is doing “too much” to protect the environment. Americans are far more likely to say that the government is doing too little (50%), while 28% believe that the government is doing “about the right amount.”

In Gallup’s tracking on this question going back to 2001, the percentage saying that the government is doing “too much” on the environment has tended to rise during Democratic presidential administrations like Biden’s and Obama’s but has never broken 20%. Meanwhile, half or more (and generally a higher figure during Republican administrations) consistently say that the U.S. government is doing too little to protect the environment.

This trend shows that actions to protect the environment are relatively unlikely to provoke much backlash, especially compared to other ways that Americans may feel that Democratic presidents go “too far.” Relatedly, Gallup finds that Americans are substantially more likely to approve of the job that Biden is doing on the environment (46%) than on other issues such as the economy (37%) or foreign affairs (33%).

Additionally, Gallup finds that Americans are more likely to prioritize environmental protection over economic growth when forced to choose between the two. Just over half (52%) say that environmental protection should be prioritized “even at the risk of curbing economic growth,” while 38% say that economic growth should be prioritized “even if the environment suffers to some extent.”

There is a climate-conscious majority that worries about climate change, recognizes its human causes, and understands that it is already happening. Around three-fifths of Americans believe or do each of the following:

Most Americans heard about record temperatures last year. Around two-thirds (68%) say that they heard that 2023 was the Earth’s warmest year on record.

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