Climate Change In the American Mind

 

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Our Climate Change in the American Mind program – conducted in partnership with the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication – tracks and investigates public understanding of climate change and support for climate policies.

Our findings have provided critical strategic communication insight to myriad organizations in the climate change community, and have been published in hundreds of journal articles, reports and news articles.

Our findings were also cited in the charter statement of the US Congressional Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change, and played a role in convincing the Obama White House that the American public is ready for federal action on climate change.

You can find Climate Change in the American Mind program resources here:

ToolsReports Climate Notes Yale Climate Opinion Maps

 

These graphs illustrate national public opinion over time and across several sociodemographic variables, as well as political views, to show the diversity of Americans’ views on climate change and how much Americans engage with the issue.

About the Data

Public opinion parameters are based on national survey data collected between 2008 and 2017 as part of the Climate Change in the American Mind (CCAM) project led by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication. Percentages refer to positive responses to questions (e.g., “Agree” or “Support”).

NOTE: Sample sizes may be small for some groups (e.g., < 100 respondents) and results should be interpreted with caution. Hover over data points with your mouse to see the sample size of the group. Email [email protected] for questions or comments about the CCAM Explorer or data.

Please cite the data and CCAM Explorer when using them in your own work:

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) & George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication (Mason 4C). (2019). Climate Change in the American Mind: National survey data on public opinion (2008-2017) [Data file and codebook]. doi: 10.17605/OSF.IO/W36GN

Ballew, M. T., Leiserowitz, A., Roser-Renouf, C., Rosenthal, S. A., Kotcher, J. E., Marlon, J. R., Lyon, E., Goldberg, M. H., & Maibach, E. W. (2019). Climate Change in the American Mind: Data, tools, and trends. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 61(3), 4-18. doi: make sure to change throughout when we get it

The Climate Change in the American Mind project is supported by the 11th Hour Project, the Energy Foundation, the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, the TomKat Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation.

Public opinion has an important influence on decision making about policies to reduce global warming and prepare for the impacts. To better understand Americans’ views on climate change, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication (Mason 4C) have conducted nationally representative surveys of U.S. adults twice a year for the past decade.

The CCAM Explorer provided here allows the public to explore the YPCCC and Mason 4C survey data. The CCAM Explorer illustrates national public opinion changes over time and across several sociodemographic variables, as well as political views. The graphs show the diversity of Americans’ views on climate change and how much Americans engage with the issue.

The dataset underlying the CCAM Explorer includes 17 waves of nationally representative surveys of U.S. adults aged 18 and older collected between 2008 and 2017. These data include measures of global warming beliefs and attitudes, risk perceptions, policy preferences, and information acquisition behaviors. The dataset also includes measures of political views and party affiliations as well as sociodemographic information such as gender, age, education, and income.

Please cite the data and CCAM Explorer when using them in your own work:

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) & George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication (Mason 4C). (2019). Climate Change in the American Mind: National survey data on public opinion (2008-2017) [Data file and codebook]. doi: 10.17605/OSF.IO/W36GN

Ballew, M. T., Leiserowitz, A., Roser-Renouf, C., Rosenthal, S. A., Kotcher, J. E., Marlon, J. R., Lyon, E., Goldberg, M. H., & Maibach, E. W. (2019). Climate Change in the American Mind: Data, tools, and trends. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 61(3), 4-18.

A codebook describing the underlying data is provided via the Open Science Framework. It contains information about survey methods, statistical procedures (e.g., using sampling weights), variables and survey questions, as well as data tables. A syntax file is also available there, which contains SPSS syntax for computing categories used in the CCAM Explorer.

Explore the tool by clicking on the tabs along the top (e.g., “Climate Views Over Time”). Within "Climate Views Over Time," select a “Question Type” (i.e., Beliefs, Risk Perceptions, Behaviors, and Policy Support) and the questions will be listed below. For each “Question Type” category, the questions are listed below. For more information about how responses to each question were categorized, please visit the “Survey Questions” tab. Hovering over data points with your mouse provides more information about the survey questions and responses, as well as the unweighted sample size of the group. NOTE: Sample sizes may be small for some groups (e.g., < 100 respondents) and results should be interpreted with caution. Please visit the “FAQ” tab for more information about the accuracy of the results.

The “Methodology” tab provides more information about the survey methods. For tabulation purposes, percentage points are rounded to the nearest whole number. As a result, the percentages in a given chart may total slightly higher or lower than 100%.

The Climate Change in the American Mind project is supported by the 11th Hour Project, the Energy Foundation, the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, the TomKat Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation.. We are very grateful to Lisa Fernandez and Eric Fine for their assistance with and support of the project. For further questions about the CCAM Explorer or what they mean, please see our “FAQ” tab. 

Data are based on nationally representative surveys of American adults age 18 or older. Surveys were conducted twice a year from 2008 to 2017, except the first wave (2008) which was conducted once that year. There was no survey in 2009. All questionnaires were self-administered by respondents in a web-based environment. The questions included in the graphs represent a subset of those asked in the complete surveys.

Samples were drawn from GfK’s KnowledgePanel®, an online panel of members drawn using probability sampling methods. Prospective members were recruited using a combination of random digit dial and address-based sampling techniques that cover virtually all (non-institutional) resident phone numbers and addresses in the United States. Those contacted who chose to join the panel but did not have access to the Internet were loaned computers and given Internet access so they could participate. The sample, therefore, includes a representative cross-section of American adults – irrespective of whether they had Internet access, used only a cell phone, etc.

The data are weighted to align with U.S. Census parameters and adjusted by sample size to account for the different number of respondents from wave to wave.

For more details, please view the “Survey Methods, Codebook, and Data Tables” documentation on our Open Science Framework page.

Climate Change in the American Mind Survey Question Wording

Percentages were derived from public responses to the following survey questions. The response categories for many questions were collapsed into a single variable for graphing. For example, for the question measuring how worried respondents are about global warming, “very worried” and “somewhat worried” were combined into a single measure of “worried.” The responses below are color coded to indicate how they were grouped into the variables shown in the graphs.

Please note that some survey questions were not asked across all waves. For more details about the following variables, please visit our page on the Open Science Framework to view the codebook.

BELIEFS

Global warming is happening
Recently, you may have noticed that global warming has been getting some attention in the news. Global warming refers to the idea that the world’s average temperature has been increasing over the past 150 years, may be increasing more in the future, and that the world’s climate may change as a result. What do you think: Do you think that global warming is happening?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t know

Global warming is caused mostly by human activities
Assuming global warming is happening, do you think it is… ?

  • Caused mostly by human activities
  • Caused mostly by natural changes in the environment
  • Other*
  • None of the above because global warming isn’t happening

*Respondents were given the option to explain their “other” response. Open-ended responses were coded and categorized into the above categories or two additional categories: “Don’t know” or “Caused by human activities and natural changes.”

Most scientists think global warming is happening
Which comes closest to your own view?

  • Most scientists think global warming is happening
  • There is a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether or not global warming is happening
  • Most scientists think global warming is not happening
  • Don’t know enough to say

RISK PERCEPTIONS

Worried about global warming
How worried are you about global warming?

  • Very worried
  • Somewhat worried
  • Not very worried
  • Not at all worried

Global warming will harm future generations
How much do you think global warming will harm future generations of people?

  • A great deal
  • A moderate amount
  • Only a little
  • Not at all
  • Don’t know

Global warming will harm plants and animals 
How much do you think global warming will harm plants and animal species?

  • A great deal
  • A moderate amount
  • Only a little
  • Not at all
  • Don’t know

Global warming will harm people in developing countries
How much do you think global warming will harm people in developing countries?

  • A great deal
  • A moderate amount
  • Only a little
  • Not at all
  • Don’t know

Global warming will harm people in the US
How much do you think global warming will harm people in the United States?

  • A great deal
  • A moderate amount
  • Only a little
  • Not at all
  • Don’t know

Global warming will harm me personally
How much do you think global warming will harm you personally?

  • A great deal
  • A moderate amount
  • Only a little
  • Not at all
  • Don’t know

Global warming is already harming people in the US
When do you think global warming will start to harm people in the United States?

  • They are being harmed right now
  • In 10 years
  • In 25 years
  • In 50 years
  • In 100 years
  • Never

POLICY SUPPORT

Fund research into renewable energy sources
How much do you support or oppose the following policies?
Fund more research into renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power

  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose

Regulate CO2 as a pollutant
How much do you support or oppose the following policies?
Regulate carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas) as a pollutant

  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose

Set strict CO2 limits on existing coal-fired power plants
How much do you support or oppose the following policy?
Set strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants to reduce global warming and improve public health. Power plants would have to reduce their emissions and/or invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The cost of electricity to consumers and companies would likely increase.

  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose

Require utilities to produce 20% electricity from renewable sources
How much do you support or oppose the following policies?
Require electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from wind, solar, or other renewable energy sources, even if it costs the average household an extra $100 a year.

  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose

BEHAVIORS

Discuss global warming
How often do you discuss global warming with your family and friends?

  • Often
  • Occasionally
  • Rarely
  • Never

Hear about global warming in the media 
How often do you hear about global warming in the media (TV, movies, radio, newspapers/news websites, magazines, etc.)?

  • At least once a week
  • At least once a month
  • Several times a year
  • Once a year or less often
  • Never
  • Not sure

POLITICAL VIEWS

Party affiliation
Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a…

  • Republican
  • Democrat
  • Independent
  • Other
  • No party/not interested in politics

Respondents who identified as “Independent” or “Other” were asked a follow-up question: “Do you think of yourself as closer to the… Republican Party, Democratic Party, Neither, or No response.” Respondents who initially identified as either a Republican or Democrat, as well as those who did not initially identify as Republican or Democrat but who said they “are closer to” one party or the other (i.e., “leaners”) in the follow-up question were categorized as Republican or Democrat, respectively. The category “Independents” does not include any of these leaners, only those who chose “Independent” or “Other” to the political party question above.

Political ideology
In general, do you think of yourself as…

  • Very liberal
  • Somewhat liberal
  • Moderate, middle of the road
  • Somewhat conservative
  • Very conservative

Partisan group (“Politics & Climate Views” Tab)

Using the political party categories described above and responses to political ideology question, Democrats were categorized as “Liberal Democrats” if they said they are “Very” or “Somewhat” liberal, or “Conservative/Moderate Democrats” if they said they are “Moderate, middle of the road” or “Very” or “Somewhat” conservative. Similarly, Republicans who self-reported that they are “Very” or “Somewhat” conservative were categorized as “Conservative Republicans,” whereas those who said they are “Moderate, middle of the road” or “Very” or “Somewhat” liberal were categorized as “Liberal/Moderate Republicans.” The category “Independent (non-leaning)” refers to those categorized as “Independent/Other” political party variable.

The YPCCC is pleased to offer our data on climate change opinion to the public. These data are distributed under the following terms of use. This is a legal agreement between you, the end-user (“User”) and Yale University on behalf of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (the “YPCCC”).  By downloading the survey data made available on this web site (“Data”) you are agreeing to be bound by the terms and conditions of this agreement.  If you do not agree to be bound by these terms, do not download or use the Data. The YPCCC hereby grants to the User a non-exclusive, revocable, limited, non-transferable license to use the Data solely for (1) research, scholarly or academic purposes, (2) the internal use of your business, or (3) your own personal non-commercial use.  You may not reproduce, sell, rent, lease, loan, distribute or sublicense or otherwise transfer any Data, in whole or in part, to any other party, or use the Data to create any derived product for resale, lease or license.  Notwithstanding the foregoing, you may incorporate limited portions of the Data in scholarly, research or academic publications or for the purposes of news reporting, provided you acknowledge the source of the Data (with express references to the YPCCC, as well as the complete title of the report) and include the following legend: The YPCCC bears no responsibility for the analyses or interpretations of the data presented here.

THE DATA IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, ARISING BY LAW OR OTHERWISE, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO WARRANTIES OF COMPLETENESS, NON-INFRINGEMENT, ACCURACY, MERCHANTABILITY, OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.  THE USER ASSUMES ALL RISK ASSOCIATED WITH USE OF THE DATA AND AGREES THAT IN NO EVENT SHALL YALE BE LIABLE TO YOU OR ANY THIRD PARTY FOR ANY INDIRECT, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, PUNITIVE OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, DAMAGES FOR THE INABILITY TO USE EQUIPMENT OR ACCESS DATA, LOSS OF BUSINESS, LOSS OF REVENUE OR PROFITS, BUSINESS INTERRUPTIONS, LOSS OF INFORMATION OR DATA, OR OTHER FINANCIAL LOSS, ARISING OUT OF THE USE OF, OR INABILITY TO USE, THE DATA BASED ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, BREACH OF CONTRACT, BREACH OF WARRANTY, TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE), OR OTHERWISE, EVEN IF USER HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.

The YPCCC has taken measures to ensure that the Data is devoid of information that could be used to identify individuals (e.g., names, telephone numbers, email addresses, social security numbers) who participated in or who were the subject of any research surveys or studies used to collect the Data (“Personally Identifying Information”).  However, in the event that you discover any such Personally Identifying Information in the Data, you shall immediately notify the YPCCC and refrain from using any such Personally Identifying Information. This license will terminate (1) automatically without notice from the YPCCC if you fail to comply with the provisions of this agreement, or (2) upon written notice (by e-mail, U.S. or otherwise) from the YPCCC.  Upon termination of this agreement, you agree to destroy all copies of any Data, in whole or in part and in any and all media, in your custody and control. This agreement shall be governed by, construed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of Connecticut. You further agree to submit to the jurisdiction and venue of the courts of the State of Connecticut for any dispute relating to this Agreement.

To download the data, please visit our page on the Open Science Framework.

What do these graphs depict?

The graphs show the percentage of U.S. adults (aged 18 years and older) who hold particular beliefs and attitudes about global warming, and who engage with the issue. Data are weighted based on key demographic variables to match U.S. Census Bureau norms (e.g., age, gender, race and ethnicity, education, income) and weights were adjusted to account for the varying sample sizes from wave to wave.

Where do the survey data come from?

The data come from a large national survey dataset (N = 20,024 respondents) collected between 2008 and 2017 as part of the Climate Change in the American Mind project led by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. Reports from the individual surveys are available here: CCAM Reports. You can also download the data and/or view data tables available on the Open Science Framework.

How accurate are the results?

All samples are subject to some degree of sampling error – that is, statistical results obtained from a sample can be expected to differ somewhat from results that would be obtained if every member of the target population were interviewed. The margin for error for each year (2 waves of surveys) is typically plus or minus 2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Importantly, margins of error become smaller when combining multiple years for analysis and become larger when examining smaller subgroups of the population (e.g., political party). As a result, differences of just a few percentage points for smaller subgroups (e.g., < 100 respondents) are typically not statistically different from one another. Also, some questions were not always asked across every wave and may have different sample sizes from other questions.

Margins of error should be calculated for accuracy using the total size (unweighted n) of the group examined. You can find the unweighted n of the group by hovering over the data points with your mouse.

Do the time trends reflect changes in opinions due to historical events, such as recent extreme weather or political events?

Perhaps. The time graphs may partially reflect changes in public opinion due to historical events. However, data from specific events or types of events are not considered as factors in these data.

How do I use the CCAM Explorer?

Explore the tool by clicking on the tabs within the CCAM Explorer (e.g., “Climate Views Over Time”). Within each tool tab, you can click on “Question Type” to look at the categories of questions (i.e., Beliefs, Risk Perceptions, Behaviors, and Policy Support). For each “Question Type” category, the questions will be listed below. Hover over the data points with your mouse to see more information about the survey questions and responses, as well as the unweighted sample size of the group. For more information about how responses to each question were categorized, please visit the “Survey Questions” tab.

To filter to all adults in the U.S. or to registered voters only, use the “Voter Status” box to the right of the graph.

To filter to specific years in the “Climate Views by Demographics” tab, click on the “Year” box and check the years you want and then click “Apply.” These filters will remain checked until you change them or reset the CCAM Explorer.

You can also download images by clicking on the icon that has a down-facing arrow. You can enter in full screen mode by clicking on the icon at the bottom-right of the screen.

How do I reset the CCAM Explorer?

You can reset it by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the graph that has a left-facing arrow pointing to a line. Alternatively, you can refresh your web browser.

How do I interpret the results?

Results refer to the percentage of U.S. adults (18+) who endorse/affirm the survey response (e.g., 71% of American adults said that global warming is happening in 2017). In the “Climate Views by Demographics” and “Politics & Climate Views” tabs, percentages refer to the groups who endorse/affirm the survey response (e.g., 40% of registered conservative Republicans said that global warming is happening in 2017; 71% of females with a Bachelor’s degree or higher were worried about global warming in 2016). Hover over the data points with your mouse to see more information about the results and visit the “Survey Questions” tab for details on the survey questions and response options.

Unweighted frequencies or counts (n) refer to the sizes of a given group (e.g., total number of respondents in a given year; total number of respondents who are registered Republican males in a given year).

Can I use the data?

Yes. We encourage you to explore the data and use the results in your own work. The data are available on the Open Science Framework so that you can do your own analyses and create your own visualizations. If you publish an academic paper using these data please use the following citation(s) below. If you publish a news article, visualization, or blog post using the CCAM Explorer and/or data, please include a link back to the CCAM Explorer and/or the dataset.

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) & George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication (Mason 4C). (2019). Climate Change in the American Mind: National survey data on public opinion (2008-2017) [Data file and codebook]. doi: 10.17605/OSF.IO/W36GN

Ballew, M. T., Leiserowitz, A., Roser-Renouf, C., Rosenthal, S. A., Kotcher, J. E., Marlon, J. R., Lyon, E., Goldberg, M. H., & Maibach, E. W. (2019). Climate Change in the American Mind: Data, tools, and trends. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 61(3), 4-18.