October 2015 – via Yale Project on Climate Change Communication

Our new national survey finds that majorities of registered Democrats, Independents and liberal and moderate Republicans want climate action, will vote for candidates who will support it and represent the mainstream of American voters. The survey also finds that conservative Republicans’ views are often different from the rest of American voters.

For example:

• Registered voters are more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who strongly supports action to reduce global warming (36% are more likely to vote for such a candidate, 16% are less likely). Only conservative Republicans are less likely to vote for such a candidate.

• Likewise, registered voters are less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who strongly opposes action to reduce global warming (43% are less likely, 13% are more likely). Only conservative Republicans are more likely (slightly) to vote for a candidate who strongly opposes action to reduce global warming.

• The 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference (often referred to as COP21) recently concluded in Paris, leading to an international agreement to reduce global warming pollution. Prior to the start of the conference, six in ten Americans (62%) said that it was moderately or more important that the world reach an agreement in Paris to limit global warming. This opinion was most widely held by liberal Democrats–nearly 9 in 10 (87%) said it was important to reach a climate agreement in Paris. At least six in ten moderate/conservative Democrats (68%), Independents (62%), and liberal/moderate Republicans (65%) also thought it was important to reach an agreement. By contrast, only about one in three conservative Republicans (36%) thought reaching an agreement was important.

Too often, the debate about climate is portrayed as one between Democrats and Republicans. In fact, it’s not. It’s a debate between most Americans and conservative Republicans. Liberal and moderate Republicans often have views about global warming that are similar to Democrats and Independents.

The survey also finds that the number of Americans who know that most climate scientists think human-caused global warming is happening has increased.

In a recent study investigating the degree of scientific consensus on climate change, researchers determined that 97% of climate scientists are convinced human-caused global warming is happening. By comparison, American registered voters, on average, estimate that six in ten climate scientists are convinced (59%), an estimate that has increased since Spring 2014, when Americans estimated that just 50% of scientists are convinced. Democrats’ estimates improved the most (from median estimates of 69% of scientists in Spring 2014 to 75% in Fall 2015), followed by conservative Republicans (from 46% to 50%, respectively).

These findings suggest that efforts to communicate the scientific consensus about human-caused global warming are beginning to pay off. People tend to become more supportive of climate solutions once they understand the consensus among climate scientists about human-caused global warming.

These findings come from a nationally-representative survey (Climate Change in the American Mind) conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (http://environment.yale.edu/climate-communication) and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication (http://www.climatechangecommunication.org).

The survey of 1,330 American adults, aged 18 and older, was conducted September 30–October 19, 2015. All questionnaires were self-administered by respondents in a web-based environment. The survey took, on average, about 24 minutes to complete.

The research was funded by the 11th Hour Project, the Energy Foundation, the Grantham Foundation, and the V.K. Rasmussen Foundation.

In addition to Drs. Anthony Leiserowitz and Edward Maibach, principal investigators included Dr. Connie Roser-Renouf of George Mason University, and Geoff Feinberg and Dr. Seth Rosenthal of Yale University.

Read moreVoters Prefer Candidates who Support Climate-Friendly Policies