Climate change is a politically divisive topic in the U.S., and this divide has grown over the past decade. Although Democrats are more likely to have pro-climate opinions, there are also many Republicans – particularly liberal/moderate Republicans – who are worried about global warming and support climate policy.
Here we investigate how Republicans are distributed among Global Warming’s Six Americas and identify which Republicans are most worried about and interested in global warming and aware of the risks it poses. The Six Americas framework identifies six distinct audiences for climate change communication within the U.S. The Alarmed and Concerned are the most likely to think that global warming is happening and are the most worried about it, while the Doubtful and Dismissive are the least likely to believe global warming is happening and are the least worried about it. In the middle of the spectrum are the Cautious (who have not yet made up their minds about global warming) and the Disengaged (who know very little about global warming and rarely hear about it).
We combine data from the six most recent waves of our Climate Change in the American Mind surveys spanning 2020-2023 to investigate the characteristics of Republicans who are Alarmed or Concerned about global warming. We compare Alarmed or Concerned Republicans (n = 617) to all other Republicans (n = 1,765) to understand their demographic and political differences. Additionally, we examine the differences in views and behaviors between Alarmed or Concerned Republicans and the average American, drawing on the entire sample of U.S. adults (n = 6,193).
Global Warming’s Six Americas Among Republicans
About half of Republicans (52%) are either Alarmed (8%), Concerned (19%), or Cautious (24%) about global warming, among which about 1 in 4 (27%) are either Alarmed or Concerned.1 At the other end of the spectrum, many Republicans are either Doubtful (23%) or Dismissive (21%) about global warming.
Demographic and Political Differences between Alarmed or Concerned Republicans and All Other Republicans
Alarmed or Concerned Republicans are more likely than all other Republicans to be Gen Z/Millennial (35% vs. 29% of all other Republicans), female (57% vs. 45%), or live in a suburban area (57% vs. 52%). By contrast, fewer Alarmed or Concerned Republicans are Baby Boomer/Silent Generation (37% vs. 43% of all other Republicans), male (43% vs. 55%), or live in a rural area (29% vs. 34%).
Additionally, Alarmed or Concerned Republicans are more likely than all other Republicans to be political moderates (respectively, 53% vs. 26%) or people of color (27% vs. 16%). Fewer Alarmed or Concerned Republicans are White (73% vs. 84%) or say they are “very conservative” (10% vs. 28%) or “somewhat conservative” (30% vs. 44%). There are no significant differences in income or education between Alarmed or Concerned Republicans and all other Republicans.
Differences between Alarmed or Concerned Republicans and the American Public in Climate Opinion and Communication Behaviors
Compared to the average American, Republicans who are either Alarmed or Concerned about global warming are more likely to understand that it is happening (respectively, 90% vs. 73%), that it is human-caused (70% vs. 58%), or that most scientists think global warming is happening (69% vs. 57%).
Additionally, Alarmed or Concerned Republicans are much more likely to perceive global warming as a serious risk overall (e.g., 92% say global warming will harm people in developing countries, while only 68% of the American public says so). However, the difference between Alarmed or Concerned Republicans and the American public is less pronounced for beliefs that global warming is affecting the weather or poses an immediate personal threat. Alarmed or Concerned Republicans (38%) are only marginally more likely than all Americans (34%) to say global warming is affecting the weather “a lot.” Additionally, while Alarmed or Concerned Republicans are much more likely to say global warming will harm people in the U.S. than are all Americans (respectively, 91% vs. 64%), the difference is much smaller for the perception that global warming is harming people in the U.S. now (57% vs. 49%). Similarly, just over half (53%) of Alarmed or Concerned Republicans say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming, compared to less than half (45%) of all Americans.
Large majorities of Alarmed or Concerned Republicans support several climate policies, including funding more research into renewable energy sources (91% vs. 80% of all Americans), providing tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (87% vs. 78%), and regulating carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas) as a pollutant (86% vs. 73%). Additionally, majorities of Alarmed or Concerned Republicans think the following should be a “high” or “very high” priority for the president and Congress: global warming (65% vs. 54% of all Americans) and developing sources of clean energy (77% vs. 65%).
However, while Alarmed or Concerned Republicans have stronger pro-climate views than the average American, they are no more likely to hear or talk about global warming. About half (51%) of Alarmed or Concerned Republicans say they hear about global warming in the media “at least once a month” or more often (vs. 53% of all Americans), about four in ten (39%) say they discuss global warming with family and friends “often” or “occasionally” (vs. 36% of all Americans), and only 1 in 5 (20%) say they hear other people (family, friends, co-workers, etc.) talk about global warming “at least once a month” or more often (vs. 23% of all Americans).
Overall, the results show that a considerable proportion of U.S. Republicans (27%) are either Alarmed or Concerned about global warming. They are more likely than other Republicans to be younger, women, politically moderate, people of color, or to live in a suburban area. While most Alarmed or Concerned Republicans have strong pro-climate views, fewer say global warming is affecting the weather, perceive it as an urgent personal threat, or hear or talk about global warming.2 These gaps represent important opportunities for communicating with and supporting pro-climate Republicans.
In our sample of U.S. adults, 91% of Alarmed or Concerned Republicans say they are registered to vote – an estimated 29 million Americans who could be further engaged to support government action on climate change. Communicators should continue to emphasize how climate change is affecting the weather and personally impacting people and communities right now. Personal experience with climate-related impacts, as well as seeing other people experience the effects of climate change, can help change people’s minds about global warming. Other research shows the effect of experience on beliefs may be limited to people who attribute the extreme weather event to climate change, highlighting the need for communicators to help people make this connection.
Importantly, communicators should also highlight how climate solutions personally benefit individuals and their communities. Climate change messages that connect to people’s values and worldviews (e.g., what they care about) are effective ways to communicate with populations who are less engaged with climate change. For instance, among the political Right, messages that align with conservative values (e.g., patriotism and ingroup loyalty, economic innovation, business opportunities, energy security) can be more effective than traditional messages in promoting pro-climate attitudes and behavior.
Additionally, encouraging pro-climate Republicans to talk about climate change (e.g., with family and friends) can help others change their minds and reinforce their own pro-climate views. Social communication strategies are among the most powerful ways to encourage climate action, and Republican messengers in particular can shift the climate views of the political Right. Furthermore, perceiving that others (e.g., family and friends) care about taking action plays an especially important role in the climate views of both the political Right and Left. Given that relatively few pro-climate Republicans talk about climate change or hear others talk about it, supporting climate conversations in this group of Americans and amplifying their stories (e.g., the EcoRight) can help build public and political will for climate action.
The results of this report are based on 2020-2023 data from six waves of the Climate Change in the American Mind survey (n = 6,193) – a biannual nationally representative survey of U.S. public opinion on climate change conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. Data were collected in December 2020 (n = 1,036), March 2021 (n = 1,037), September 2021 (n = 1,006), April 2022 (n = 1,018), and December 2022 (n = 1,085), and April 2023 (n = 1,011). Survey data collection was conducted using the Ipsos KnowledgePanel®, a representative online panel of U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The questionnaires were self-administered online by respondents in a web-based environment.
Data for each survey wave were weighted to align with demographic parameters in the United States, and then the six survey waves were averaged to take into account sample size differences. Following Pew Research Center’s approach, generational cohort and year of birth were calculated based on the age of respondents at the time of data collection (Gen Z: 1997-2012; Millennial: 1981-1996; Gen X: 1965-1980; Baby Boomer: 1946-1964; Silent Generation: 1928-1945; and Greatest Generation: before 1928). Because generational cohort classification was based on respondents’ age at the time they took the survey (rather than birth year, which was not known), some respondents on the cusp of two generations may be miscategorized.
References to Republicans include respondents who initially identify as a Republican, as well as those who initially identify as Independent/Other but then say they “are closer to” the Republican party (i.e., a “leaner”) in a follow-up question. Republicans (n = 2,382) who were identified as either “Alarmed” or “Concerned” about global warming using the Six Americas Super Short Survey (SASSY) audience segmentation tool (n = 617) were compared to all other Republicans (n = 1,765) and all respondents in the sample (n = 6,193) in analyses.
Group differences were tested for statistical significance using the weighted proportions and unweighted sample sizes of each group. In figures/data tables, bases specified are unweighted, while percentages are weighted to match national population parameters. For tabulation purposes, percentage points are rounded to the nearest whole number and percentages in a given chart may total slightly higher or lower than 100%. The average margin of error is +/- 1.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence interval for the full sample of U.S. adults (n = 6,193), +/- 3.9 for the subgroup of Republicans who are either Alarmed or Concerned about global warming (n = 617), and +/- 2.3 for all other Republicans (n = 1,765). The wording of the survey questions and the data tables used to develop the charts/figures can be found here.
Climate Change in the American Mind is conducted jointly by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.
Ballew, M., Carman, J., Rosenthal, S., Verner, M., Kotcher, J., Maibach, E., & Leiserowitz, A. (2023). Which Republicans are worried about global warming? Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
The research was funded by the 11th Hour Project, the Energy Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the Grantham Foundation.