Survey: Record Number of Americans ‘Very Worried’ About Global Warming

Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles and events posted prior to July 1, 2020 refer to the School's name at that time.

nationally representative survey conducted shortly after the presidential election finds that the number of Americans “very worried” about global warming has reached a record high (19 percent), since first measured in 2008. A majority of Americans (61 percent) say they are “very” or “somewhat” worried about the issue — nearly equal to the highest level recorded in 2008 (62 percent).
Likewise, Americans increasingly view global warming as a threat. Since Spring 2015, more Americans think it will harm people in developing countries (65 percent, +12 points), people in the U.S. (59 percent, +10 points), future generations (71 percent, +8 points), their own family (46 percent, +5 points), and themselves personally (41 percent, +5 points).
These findings come from a nationally representative survey (“Climate Change in the American Mind”) conducted by the F&ES-based Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.
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“Despite the election of a president who has described global warming as a hoax, Americans are increasingly convinced global warming is happening and are more worried about it,” said lead researcher Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale University. “This indicates that on this issue, there is a growing gap between the views of the American public and the incoming Trump administration.”
Other key findings include:
  • Seven in 10 Americans (70 percent) think global warming is happening, which nearly matches the highest level (71 percent) recorded in 2008. By contrast, only about one in eight Americans (13 percent) think global warming is not happening. Americans are also more certain it is happening — the proportion who are “extremely” or “very” sure global warming is happening (45 percent) is at its highest level since 2008.
  • Over half of Americans (55 percent) understand that global warming is mostly human caused, which is the highest level since 2008. By contrast, three in ten (30 percent) say it is due mostly to natural changes in the environment — the lowest level recorded since 2008.
  • Six in 10 Americans (61 percent) say the issue of global warming is either “extremely” (10 percent), “very” (17 percent), or “somewhat” (34 percent) important to them personally. Four in 10 (39 percent) say it is either “not too” (22 percent) or “not at all” (16 percent) important personally.
  • By a three-to-one margin, Americans say that schools should teach children about the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to global warming (76 percent agree vs. 24 percent who disagree).
“Americans also continue to support climate action, as our recent report on the Politics of Global Warming found,” said co-lead investigator Edward Maibach of George Mason University. “Americans across party lines support participating in the Paris international agreement, limiting carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, and using regulations and/or taxes to limit global warming.”
The survey of 1,226 American adults, aged 18 and older, was conducted Nov. 18 to Dec. 1, 2016 on the GfK KnowledgePanel.
The research was funded by the 11th Hour Project, the Energy Foundation, the Grantham Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation.
In addition to Anthony Leiserowitz and Edward Maibach, principal investigators included Seth Rosenthal and Matthew Cutler of Yale University and Connie Roser-Renouf of George Mason University.

View the full report

For questions about the survey, please contact Anthony Leiserowitz.