🌡️ Not So Hot: Climate Change Concern Cools

In Home, News by wp_sysadmin

The temperature of public worry about climate change takes a dip.

Younger adults express less urgency than in prior polls
Monmouth University, May 6, 2024

Most Americans continue to acknowledge the existence of climate change, according to the latest Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll, but the number who see this as a very serious problem has fallen below half. Support for government action to reduce activities that impact the climate has dipped below 6 in 10 for the first time since Monmouth began polling this topic nearly a decade ago. The poll finds that the drop in the importance and urgency of climate change has been most pronounced among younger adults.

Nearly 3 in 4 Americans (73%) believe the world’s climate is undergoing a change leading to more extreme weather patterns and sea level rise, while 23% say this is not happening. Belief in climate change is down slightly from polls taken in 2021 (76%) and 2018 (78%) but is still nominally higher than it was in 2015 (70%). Nearly all Democrats (92%) believe climate change is happening, which has been fairly consistent across prior polls (94% in 2021, 92% in 2018, and 85% in 2015). Republicans (51%) are the least likely to accept climate change as a reality, which is similar to GOP opinion in 2021 (48%) and 2015 (49%), but down from a momentary jump recorded in 2018 (64%). [Note: the 2018 poll was conducted shortly before then-President Donald Trump disparaged a new federal climate report.]  Most independents (71%) believe climate change is happening, but this is down from 81% who said the same in 2021, as well as 78% in 2018 and 74% in 2015.

“Most Americans continue to believe climate change is real. The difference in these latest poll results is a decline in a sense of urgency around this issue,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. A Monmouth poll released last month found only 15% of voters view climate change as a determinative issue in how they will vote in the 2024 presidential election, ranking far lower than inflation, immigration, and abortion.

Less than half (46%) of the American public sees climate change as a very serious problem. This number is higher than it was nine years ago (41% in 2015) but is decidedly lower than in more recent polling (54% in 2018 and 56% in 2021). Compared to three years ago, climate change concern has declined by 8 percentage points among both Democrats (77% very serious, down from 85% in 2021) and Republicans (13%, from 21%) and by 13 points among independents (43%, from 56%).

There has also been a drop-in support for government action on climate change. Just over half say it is either extremely important (29%) or very important (23%) for the federal government to address the issue. This is down from 6 in 10 who felt this way less than three years ago (33% extremely and 27% very important in September 2021). Currently, 59% support and 36% oppose the U.S. government doing more to reduce the type of activities that cause climate change and sea level rise. While a clear majority continue to support government action, this number is lower than past polling (66% in 2021, 69% in 2018, and 64% in 2015). Most Democrats (89%) support government action on climate change while few Republicans (30%) feel the same. These results are nearly identical to 2021. However, support among independents has dropped significantly over the past three years (55%, down from 67% in 2021).

“Support for climate action remains relatively high in absolute terms, but it has softened due to a drop in the sense of urgency on this issue, particularly among younger adults,” said Murray.

The percentage of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 who see climate change as a very serious problem has fallen by 17 points in the past three years (50%, down from 67% in 2021), compared with smaller declines among those who are 35 to 54 years old (44%, down from 48%) and those age 55 and older (44%, down from 54%). Support for government action to reduce climate change activities stands at 62% among those age 18 to 34, which is similar to current support levels among older Americans (55% age 35 to 54 and 60% age 55 and older). However, support among younger adults has dropped significantly from prior polls (80% in 2021, 82% in 2018, and 75% in 2015), while it has remained fairly stable among Americans aged 35 and older during the past decade.

In terms of pinpointing exactly when the shift in attitudes about climate change occurred, most of the questions included in the Monmouth poll have been asked every three years since 2015. However, the question on the importance of government action was added in early 2021 and has been asked multiple times since then. The findings on this question suggest the dip in climate concern occurred between late 2021 and the fall of 2022. Results from a Pew Research Center poll taken last year also suggest that a dip in public concern about climate change occurred around 2022.

Public opinion remains mixed on the degree to which human behavior contributes to change in the climate. Just over one-third (34%) say climate change is caused mainly by human activity while 31% say human activity and natural changes in the environment play equal roles. Another 7% put climate change down mainly to natural causes, with the remainder saying climate change is not happening (23%) or are not sure if it is happening (4%). Just over half of Americans (51%) say there is still time to prevent the worst effects of climate change while just 17% say it is too late.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from April 18 to 22, 2024 with 808 adults in the United States. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points for the full sample. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

Read Individual Questions and Results