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Consumer Activism on Global Warming, September 2021

Dec 15, 2021 | All Categories, Climate Change in the American Mind, Reports

December 16, 2021


Our latest national survey finds that millions of Americans are willing to “vote with their dollars” to reward companies taking climate action and punish companies blocking action. But the primary barrier holding consumers back is simply knowing which companies to reward or punish.

This report is based on findings from a nationally representative survey – Climate Change in the American Mind – 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 (climatecommunication.yale.edu) and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication (climatechangecommunication.org). Interview dates: September 10 – 20, 2021. Interviews: 1,006 Adults (18+). Average margin of error +/- 3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Download the full report


Executive Summary

Drawing on a nationally representative survey (n = 1,006), this report describes Americans’ willingness to engage in consumer activism to reduce global warming. The survey was fielded from September 10 – 20, 2021. This report builds on three previous reports from this same survey that focused on public support for U.S. domestic climate policy, public support for international climate action, and Americans’ beliefs and attitudes about global warming.

Among the key findings of this report:

Individual Consumer Actions

  • 33% of Americans say they have rewarded companies that are taking steps to reduce global warming by buying their products in the past 12 months, and 28% say they have punished companies that are opposing steps to reduce global warming by not buying their products.
  • 41% of Americans say that, over the next 12 months, they intend to reward companies that are taking steps to reduce global warming more frequently than they do now; the same percentage (41%) say they intend to punish companies that are opposing steps to reduce global warming more frequently than they do now.
  • Asked why they might not punish companies that oppose steps to reduce global warming:
    • 71% say they do not know which companies to punish
    • 61% say they are not an activist
    • 58% say nobody has ever asked them to do so
    • 49% say their actions wouldn’t have any influence on a company
    • 47% say they can’t afford to do it
    • 45% say it would be inconvenient
    • 35% say they are too busy
    • 35% say it’s too much effort
  • Half of Americans (50%) say they would be more likely to purchase goods from a company that is lobbying Congress to pass legislation to reduce global warming, while only 15% say they would be less likely to purchase goods from such a company.
  • 38% of Americans say they would be either “extremely” (8%), “very” (10%) or “moderately” likely (20%) to switch banks or credit cards if they knew their bank or credit card company was investing in fossil fuels companies.

Consumers’ Collective Efficacy

  • 54% of Americans are at least “moderately confident” that people like them, working together, can affect what the local businesses in their community do about global warming, and nearly half (48%) are confident that people like them can affect what corporations do about global warming.

Consumers’ Expectations for Industries and Companies

  • Half or more Americans say that each of the 22 industries asked about in our survey should be doing “more” or “much more” to address global warming, including two in three or more who say fossil fuel companies (70%), airlines (69%), auto companies (68%), and trucking companies (67%) should be doing more.
  • Majorities of Americans either “strongly” or “somewhat” agree that companies should take various climate-friendly actions, including the following:
    • not advertising their products and services on television networks that spread misinformation about climate change (75%)
    • purchasing 100% clean, renewable energy to power their operations (70%)
    • not contributing to the campaigns of candidates who oppose action to reduce global warming (65%)
  • 64% of Americans say car companies should do more to encourage people to buy electric vehicles.
  • Three in four or more Americans think stopping the spread of false information about global warming should be either a “high” or “medium” priority for the U.S. government (78%), news organizations (77%), social media companies (75%), and citizens themselves (75%).

Citation

Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Rosenthal, S., Kotcher, J., Neyens, L., Carman, J., Marlon, J., Lacroix, K., & Goldberg, M. (2021). Consumer Activism on Global Warming, September 2021. Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Funding Sources

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