July 21, 2022
Climate Change in the American Mind is a joint program of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication
Drawing on a nationally representative survey (n = 1,018) conducted from April 13 – May 2, 2022, this report describes Americans’ beliefs and attitudes about global warming. We previously reported the findings on public support for U.S. climate policy.
In the September 2021 wave of the Climate Change in the American Mind survey, we found that public understanding of several key indicators – that climate change is happening, affecting the weather, harming Americans, etc. – had reached all-time highs. These and other indicators have declined back to levels close to what we found in March 2021.
Among the key findings of this report:
Global Warming Beliefs
- Americans who think global warming is happening outnumber those who think it is not happening by a ratio of 6 to 1 (72% versus 12%). Those who are “very” or “extremely” sure global warming is happening outnumber those who are “very” or “extremely” sure it is not happening more than 7 to 1 (54% versus 7%).
- More than half of Americans (56%) understand that global warming is mostly human-caused. About one in three (33%) think it is due mostly to natural changes in the environment.
- A majority of Americans (55%) understand that most scientists think global warming is happening. However, only one in five (20%) understand how strong the level of consensus among scientists is (i.e., that more than 90% of climate scientists think human-caused global warming is happening).
Emotional Responses to Global Warming
- A majority of Americans (64%) say they are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming. Three in ten (30%) say they are “very worried.”
- About six in ten Americans (62%) say they feel “interested” when thinking about global warming. About half say they feel “disgusted” or “sad” (both 51%). Four in ten or more say they feel “afraid” (46%), ”angry” (44%), or “outraged” (42%), while 38% say they feel “hopeful.”
Perceived Risks of Global Warming
- About half of Americans (48%) think people in the United States are being harmed by global warming “right now,” and four in ten (43%) say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming.
- 47% of Americans think they will be harmed by global warming, and about half think their family (51%) and people in their community (52%) will be harmed. Larger majorities think global warming will harm people in the U.S. (65%), people in developing countries (69%), the world’s poor (69%), plant and animal species (72%), and future generations of people (72%).
- More than one in ten Americans (13%) have considered moving to avoid the impacts of global warming.
Personal and Social Engagement with Global Warming
- Two in three Americans (67%) say they “rarely” or “never” discuss global warming with family and friends, while one in three (33%) say they do so “occasionally” or “often.”
- More than half of Americans (56%) say they hear about global warming in the media at least once a month. Fewer (24%) say they hear people they know talk about global warming at least once a month.
- A majority of Americans (64%) say the issue of global warming is either “extremely,” “very,” or “somewhat” important to them personally, while 36% say it is either “not too” or “not at all” personally important.
- Fewer than half of Americans think their friends and family take action on global warming or that their friends and family expect them to take action: 40% say their family and friends make at least “a moderate amount of effort” to reduce global warming (a descriptive norm). Similarly, 40% think it is at least “moderately” important to their family and friends that they take action (an injunctive norm).
- A majority of Americans (61%) disagree with the statement “it’s already too late to do anything about global warming,” while only 17% agree.
- Americans are split about whether they think “new technologies can solve global warming without individuals having to make big changes to their lives” (48% agree; 52% disagree).
Impacts of Global Warming
- A majority of Americans (63%) think global warming is affecting weather in the United States, including 32% who think weather is being affected “a lot.”
- Large majorities of Americans think global warming is affecting many environmental problems in the United States including extreme heat (75%), wildfires (73%), droughts (72%), rising sea levels (72%), flooding (70%), water shortages (70%). and air pollution (70%). More than six in ten think global warming is affecting hurricanes (69%), reduced snowpack (68%), tornados (67%), agricultural pests and diseases (65%), water pollution (63%), and electricity power outages (62%).
- About two in three Americans (65%) agree either “strongly” (31%) or “somewhat” (34%) agree that wildfires have increased around the world as a result of global warming.
- A majority of Americans (56%) think extreme weather poses either a “high” (19%) or “moderate” (37%) risk to their community over the next 10 years.
- A majority of Americans are worried about harm from a range of environmental problems in their local area including electricity power outages (78%), water pollution (77%), air pollution (73%), extreme heat (71%), agricultural pests and diseases (70%), droughts (69%), water shortages (68%), flooding (61%), wildfires (61%), and tornados (60%).
This report is based on findings from a nationally representative survey – Climate Change in the American Mind – conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. Interview dates: April 13 – May 2, 2022.
Interviews: 1,018 adults (18+). Average margin of error: +/- 3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The research was funded by the 11th Hour Project, the Energy Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the Grantham Foundation.
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Table of Contents
CitationLeiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Rosenthal, S., Kotcher, J., Carman, J., Neyens, L., Myers, T., Goldberg, M., Campbell, E., Lacroix, K., & Marlon, J. (2022). Climate Change in the American Mind, April 2022. Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Funding SourceThe research was funded by the 11th Hour Project, the Energy Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the Grantham Foundation.