June 8, 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
Drawing on a nationally representative survey (n = 1,011) conducted from April 18 – May 1, 2023, this report describes Americans’ beliefs and attitudes about global warming. 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 nearly 5 to 1 (74% versus 15%).
- Those who are “very” or “extremely” sure global warming is happening outnumber those who are “very” or “extremely” sure it is not happening by more than 6 to 1 (53% versus 8%).
- A majority of Americans (61%) understand that global warming is mostly human-caused. By contrast, 28% think it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment.
- A majority of Americans (58%) 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).
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 nearly as many (44%) say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming.
- Half or more Americans think global warming will harm future generations of people (71%), plant and animal species (70%), the world’s poor (69%), people in developing countries (68%), people in the United States (64%), people in their community (55%), or their family (52%). Many Americans also think they themselves (47%) will be harmed.
- About one in ten Americans (11%) have considered moving to avoid the impacts of global warming.
Worry About Global Warming
- About two-thirds of Americans (66%) say they are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming. This includes 30% of Americans who say they are “very worried.”
Personal and Social Engagement with Global Warming
- A majority of Americans (54%) say they have thought about global warming “a lot” or “some.”
- Most Americans (66%) say they “rarely” or “never” discuss global warming with family and friends, while 34% say they do so “occasionally” or “often.”
- 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: 38% 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).
- About half of Americans (52%) say they hear about global warming in the media about once a month or more frequently. Fewer (23%) say they hear people they know talk about global warming once a month or more frequently.
- About two in three Americans (65%) say the issue of global warming is either “extremely,” “very,” or “somewhat” important to them personally, while 35% say it is either “not too” or “not at all” personally important.
- A majority of Americans (62%) say they feel a personal sense of responsibility to help reduce global warming.
- About three in ten Americans (28%) say they look for information about solutions to global warming several times a year or more often.
- About two-thirds of Americans (66%) disagree with the statement “it’s already too late to do anything about global warming,” while only 13% agree.
- A majority of Americans (57%) disagree with the statement “the actions of a single individual won’t make any difference in global warming,” while 42% agree.
- A majority of Americans (56%) disagree with the statement “new technologies can solve global warming without individuals having to make big changes in their lives,” while 44% agree.
Impacts of Global Warming
- A majority of Americans (65%) think global warming is affecting weather in the United States, including 33% 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 (75%), rising sea levels (72%), wildfires (71%), droughts (71%), flooding (69%), water shortages (69%), hurricanes (68%), air pollution (67%), tornados (66%), reduced snow pack (62%), agricultural pests and diseases (61%), water pollution (60%), and electricity power outages (58%).
- A majority of Americans (56%) think extreme weather poses either a “high” (18%) or “moderate” (38%) risk to their community over the next 10 years.
- Majorities of Americans are worried their local area might be harmed by water pollution (72%), air pollution (72%), extreme heat (72%), electricity power outages (71%), droughts (68%), agricultural pests and diseases (61%), water shortages (60%), flooding (57%), tornados (56%), and wildfires (51%). Many Americans are also worried their local area might be harmed by rising sea levels (42%), hurricanes (41%), and reduced snow pack (36%).
Table of Contents
CitationLeiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Rosenthal, S., Kotcher, J., Lee, S., Verner, M., Ballew, M., Carman, J., Myers, T., Goldberg, M., Badullovich, N., & Marlon, J. (2023). Climate Change in the American Mind: Beliefs & Attitudes, Spring 2023. 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.