Climate Change Perceived by Americans From Two Polls

Climate Change

This March, climate change is a hot topic almost every day, with new studies showing its potential to slow down deep ocean current, its effect in extending wildflowers bloom one month longer, its threats to global water supply, its potential to increase food price, cause famine, outbreak of disease, etc. Along with these objective studies, there are two polls, one by Gallup and one by Huffington Post, providing subjective studies on Americans’ perceptions on climate change.

The Gallup annual Environmental poll was conducted March 6-9 with a random sample of 1,048 adults in U.S. The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted March 15-17 using 1,000 adults in U.S. selected from YouGov’s online panel. Both polls show around 65 percent of Americans believe that the effects of global warming are happening or will begin to happen during their lifetime, and 36 percent believe it will pose a serious threat to their way of life during their lifetime.

The Gallup poll started to ask people these questions from 1997. The percentage of people who believe climate change is happening/will happen in their lifetime is 2014 is the same as it was 17 years ago. The percentage of people who believe their way of life will be impaired in their lifetime increased by 11 percent from what it is in 1997. The 2008 poll recorded the peak of both numbers: 75 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

Two reasons may explain why Americans’ perception of climate change shown in these two polls has changed since 2008. The economic recession happened in Fall 2008 has pushed the economic development to the No.1 priority for both the politics and the everyday life of Americans. The actions that scientists recommended to slow down climate change are rarely cheap nor fast. The other reason, probably more important, is the Climatic Research Unit email controversy, better known as “Climategate” in November 2009. This severely tainted the credibility of climate scientists and damaged the confidence of public.

When sorting the poll results based on age group, the Gallup poll shows although young Americans are most likely to believe the effects of global warming will occur during their life time, this age group does not have noticeably higher percentage of people who believe it will pose serious threat to their way of life, when comparing with other age groups. Young people are best positioned to be convinced that such threats are tangible, as they are better connected to knowledge and information than any other age group, yet they are not based on the poll result.

A unique question in the HuffPost/YouGov poll is to ask Americans whether their way of life would be threatened by climate change in the future, not just in their lifetime. The result is 56 percent of Americans said yes. Environmental organizations may have better success to rally actions for climate change by focusing on the grandchildren, or great-grandchildren generations, to get attention from 56 percent of Americans, rather than focusing on immediate threats that only 36 percent of Americans believe.

No matter how convincing the science can be, Americans’ perception on climate change is the fundamental drive in taking actions to reduce threats from climate change, and scientists and environmentalists have their work cut out from these two polls.

Opinion by Tina Zhang

Sources:

Huffington Post
Gallup Politics
Responding to Climate Change
Los Angeles Times
Scientific American
Yahoo News
Zee News
Nature

2 Responses to "Climate Change Perceived by Americans From Two Polls"

  1. Leslie Graham   March 23, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    ‘Mememine69’ is a well known astro-turfer for the denial industry.
    He spams the same identical gish gallops of the most absurd nonsense to any and every publication and blog that includes the word “climate” in the header.

    He posts to about 40 threads under around 5 or 6 different screen-names and his total number of spam posts under the sceen-name ‘mememine69’ alone is nearly 10,000.

    Yep – 10,000 near identical posts.

    His real name is Paul Merrifield and he is an obese 60 year old loser from Niagra Falls now living in London, Ontario.
    It has been explained to him a hundred times that the scientific method deals in the balance of probabilities and not absolutes. He usualy just does a ‘drive-by’ posting and doesn’t even attempt to refute the proof that he is posting BS.

    I always report him as spam whenever possible.

    He often changes his name but he is instantly recognisable from the same old posts week in week out.

    Just shows what intelligent people are up against when there exist repulsive individuals who are prepared to threaten ours and our childrens future for his ideological beliefs and whatever pennies the carbon corporations toss to him.
    Shamefull.

    Reply
  2. mememine69   March 23, 2014 at 8:13 am

    The world of science is 95% certain that THE END IS NEAR.
    Remaining “believers” are 100% certain THE END IS NEAR.
    Now who’s the neocon?

    Reply

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