Believers, Sympathizers, and Skeptics: Why Americans are Conflicted about Climate Change, Environmental Policy, and Science

Findings from the PRRI/AAR Religion,Values, and Climate Change Survey
Public Religion Research Institute

Americans rank climate change last on a list of important issues. Only five percent of Americans say climate change is the most important issue facing the U.S. today. The issue of climate change ranks behind the lack of jobs (22%), the increasing gap between rich and poor (18%), health care (17%), the budget deficit (13%), immigration reform (10%), and the rising cost of education (9%).

When asked which environmental problem is most important for the current administration to tackle, nearly 3-in-10 (29%) Americans point to air, water, and soil pollution. One-quarter (25%) of Americans say climate change is the most pressing environment problem, while a similar number (23%) identify water shortages and drought. Fewer Americans cite the shrinking of wilderness areas and animal habitats (11%) or endangered species (4%) as the most critical environmental issue.

Americans are significantly more likely to believe that people living in poorer developing countries will be harmed by climate change than they are to say that they personally, or U.S. residents as a whole, will be negatively affected by climate change.

Less than one-quarter (24%) of Americans believe that they will be personally harmed a great deal by climate change, while 30% say climate change will affect them a moderate amount. More than 4-in-10 Americans say climate change will have only a little (23%) or no impact (22%) on them personally.

One-third (33%) of Americans say the U.S. public overall will experience a great deal of harm due to climate change, while 35% say the U.S. public will experience a moderate amount of harm. Three-in-ten Americans say that climate change will impact people living in the U.S. only a little (18%) or not at all (12%)…


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