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Climate Change in the American Mind: Beliefs & Attitudes, December 2022

Feb 15, 2023 | All Categories

February 16, 2023

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


Executive Summary

Drawing on a nationally representative survey (n = 1,085) conducted from December 2 – 12, 2022, this report describes Americans’ beliefs and attitudes about global warming. We previously reported findings from this survey on public support for U.S. climate policy.

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 more than 4 to 1 (70% versus 16%).
  • Those who are “very” or “extremely” sure global warming is happening outnumber those who are “very” or “extremely” sure it is not happening by about 5 to 1 (51% versus 10%).
  • More than half of Americans (58%) understand that global warming is mostly human-caused. About one in four (27%) think it is due mostly to natural changes in the environment.
  • A majority of Americans (58%) understand that most scientists think global warming is happening.

Perceived Risks of Global Warming

  • About half of Americans (49%) think people in the United States are being harmed by global warming “right now,” and nearly as many (47%) say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming.
  • 44% of Americans think they will be harmed by global warming, 48% think their family will be harmed, and half (50%) think people in their community will be harmed. Majorities of Americans think global warming will harm people in the U.S. (62%), people in developing countries (66%), the world’s poor (66%), future generations of people (68%), and plant and animal species (70%).
  • One in ten Americans (10%) have considered moving to avoid the impacts of global warming.

Global Warming, Emotional Responses, and Mental Health

  • A majority of Americans (64%) say they are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming. This includes about one in four (27%) who say they are “very worried.”
  • More than half of Americans (58%) say they feel “interested” when thinking about global warming. Four in ten or more say they feel “frustrated” (48%), “hopeful” (41%), “sad” (40%), or “disgusted” (40%). Fewer say they feel “angry” (35%), “afraid” (34%), “outraged” (34%), “anxious” (32%), “hopeless” (29%), or “depressed” (23%).
  • About one in ten Americans report experiencing symptoms of anxiety because of global warming for several or more days out of the last two weeks. Almost as many report experiencing symptoms of depression because of global warming.
  • About one in four Americans (27%) say they try not to think about global warming, and 15% say they try to avoid information about global warming. About one in ten say they often have trouble stopping themselves from consuming bad news about global warming (11%) or seek social or emotional support to help manage their concerns about global warming (10%).
  • Eight percent of Americans say they are discussing their feelings about global warming with a counselor or therapist or would be interested in doing so.

Personal and Social Engagement with Global Warming

  • Most Americans (63%) say they “rarely” or “never” discuss global warming with family and friends, while 37% say they do so “occasionally” or “often.”
  • More than half of Americans (57%) say they hear about global warming in the media about once a month or more frequently. Fewer (25%) say they hear people they know talk about global warming once a month or more frequently.
  • Two in three Americans (67%) say the issue of global warming is either “extremely,” “very,” or “somewhat” important to them personally, while 33% 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: 36% say their family and friends make at least “a moderate amount of effort” to reduce global warming (a descriptive norm) while 41% think it is at least “moderately” important to their family and friends that they take action (an injunctive norm).
  • A majority of Americans (63%) say they feel a personal sense of responsibility to help reduce global warming.
  • About three in ten Americans (29%) say they look for information about solutions to global warming several times a year or more often.

Fatalism

  • A majority of Americans (61%) disagree with the statement “it’s already too late to do anything about global warming,” while only 14% agree.

Impacts of Global Warming

  • A majority of Americans (60%) think global warming is affecting weather in the United States, including 31% who think weather is being affected “a lot.”
  • Majorities of Americans think global warming is affecting many environmental problems in the United States including extreme heat, droughts, and wildfires (all 70%), water shortages (68%), rising sea levels (67%), flooding (66%), air pollution (64%), hurricanes (64%), tornados (62%), reduced snow pack (61%), agricultural pests and diseases (60%), water pollution (58%), and electricity power outages (57%).
  • A majority of Americans (56%) think extreme weather poses either a “high” (17%) or “moderate” (38%) risk to their community over the next 10 years.
  • Majorities of Americans are worried about harm to their local area from water pollution (79%), electricity power outages (79%), air pollution (78%), droughts (75%), extreme heat (74%), agricultural pests and diseases (74%), water shortages (72%), flooding (65%), wildfires (62%), and tornados (61%). About half are worried about rising sea levels (52%), reduced snow pack (49%), and hurricanes (48%).

Citation

Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Rosenthal, S., Kotcher, J., Carman, J., Verner, M., Lee, S., Ballew, M., Uppalapati, S., Campbell, E., Myers, T., Goldberg, M., & Marlon, J. (2023). Climate Change in the American Mind: Beliefs & Attitudes, December 2022. Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Funding Source

The research was funded by the 11th Hour Project, the Energy Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the Grantham Foundation.