Public Opinion on Climate Change Policy – It’s Not What You Might Think

Public Support March 2012

If you pay attention to the rhetoric between climate change supporters and climate change deniers, you would think that it is a polarizing issue; that you could predict by political party affiliation which way the public will fall on climate and energy issues.

A new poll says this is not true. The majority of all people, regardless of political party, believe that global warming should be a political priority and they want their elected officials to do something about it.

According to Anthony Leiserowitz of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication “when you look at a policy like should the nation make a major investment in clean energy, everybody supports that. I mean, in some cases, we found nine out of ten Americans support a national investment in clean energy….People come to support the exact same policy, albeit for very different reasons. The alarmed and the concerned, they support clean energy because they’re worried about carbon emissions and reducing climate change. But the doubtful and dismissive don’t believe in climate change, but they support those exact same policies because they resonate with their deeply held values and concerns, mainly that we are so dependent on fossil fuels and other countries for the energy that runs much of our modern society.”

Indeed, a majority of Americans from both political parties are ready for the “grand bargain,” an increase in taxes on old energy sources (oil, coal, and natural gas) in return for a reduction in income tax rates across the board. They are ready for a new national climate and energy policy to emerge. They are also ready to support new, cutting edge energy technologies and they recognize that climate change is starting to affect extreme weather events. In fact, 82 percent said they were personally affected by a climate-related extreme weather event of one kind or another last year and are ready to do something about it.

These are some of the key findings in a new poll released by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities in a project called “Climate Change in the American Mind.” The survey looks at what Americans believe about new energy technologies as well as new or emerging climate policies.

For more information:

Listen on NPR

Download the full report:

Yale Project on Climage Change Education (PDF 2.1MB)

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