Two-Thirds of Americans Want More Action on Climate Change

Demonstrators gather outside the White House on June 1, 2017, to protest President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate change accord. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(CN) — As the U.S. weathers a rolling pandemic, most Americans are expressing unabated concern about the looming effects of another catastrophe: climate change.

Though a Pew Research Center survey published Tuesday found that two-thirds of respondents agreed that the federal government is doing too little to mitigate climate change, partisanship and geography colored their opinions about the global environmental phenomenon.

In a survey of 10,957 adults between April 29 and May 5, 65% said that the federal government should do more to reduce the effects of climate change.

An overwhelming majority (90%) favored planting a trillion trees to absorb atmospheric carbon, followed by tax credits for carbon emission reduction (84%), higher emissions standards for power plants (80%), raising corporate taxes to pay for carbon emissions (73%) and stronger fuel efficiency standards for vehicles (71%).

Another large majority, 79% of all respondents, said the U.S. should also prioritize alternative energy sources.

While 86% or more of Democrats supported each mitigation option, majorities of Republicans supported these efforts as well. GOP respondents were least supportive of beefing up fuel efficiency standards, though 52% of them still supported it.

However, the starkest contrast between Democrats and Republicans was in their disparate opinions about whether climate change could affect their communities directly. Eighty-three percent of Democrats felt that the changing climate was affecting their community at least somewhat, whereas 62% of Republicans said that climate change was affecting their communities only little, if at all.

Partisanship was compounded by any given respondent’s distance from a coastline. Overall, 70% of those who lived within 25 miles of a coastline were concerned about climate change affecting their communities. That concern fell to 61% among those living 25 to 299 miles from the coast, followed by 57% of those who lived more than 300 miles away.

Parsing by partisan affiliation, Democrats were virtually equally concerned about climate change regardless of their distance from the coast, though more Democrats on the coast demonstrated a great deal of concern compared to landlocked liberals.

In contrast, only 45% of Republicans on the coast said they were concerned about climate change, which consistently fell as GOP respondents’ distance from the coast increased. Thirty-eight percent of Republicans living 25 to 299 miles from the coast were concerned about climate change, followed by 31% who lived more than 300 miles from the coast.

Similarly, Democrats were far more likely to attribute environmental changes to humans than their Republican counterparts. Seventy-two percent of Democratic respondents said that a great deal of climate change can be attributed to human activity, whereas only 22% of Republicans said the same.

Education levels affected Democrats’ perception of climate change, but it played almost no role in Republicans’ views on climate change. Republicans with a postgraduate degree were slightly more likely to attribute climate change to humans (25%), but Republicans at virtually every education level fell close to the 22% average. In contrast, 86% of Democrats with a postgraduate degree linked the changing climate to human activity, whereas only 58% of Democrats with a high school diploma or less felt the same.

However, both Democrats and Republicans have consistently begun to favor alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power over traditional and established sources like oil, coal and natural gas.

For example, Republican support for renewable energy grew from 45% in 2017 to 65% in the latest survey, and their support for fossil fuels fell from 44% to 35% in the same period. Similarly, Democratic support for renewables grew from 81% in 2017 to 91% this year, and support for fossil fuels fell from 14% to just 8%.

The Pew survey data suggested that while climate change is a wedge issue between Democrats and Republicans, opposing stances on where to attribute blame may not be relevant to solving the problem at the federal level.

Given respondents’ widespread support for investment in renewable energy and combating environmental changes, the poll’s findings support the tangible solutions that would mitigate climate change, regardless of whether people believe it is an imminent threat or whether humans are to blame.

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