A new Gallup survey of American adults shows rising belief and continued concern about global warming, with 58% say they worry about it.
More specifically, 33% of Americans worry about global warming “a great deal,” 25% worry “a fair amount,” 20% “only a little,” and 23% “not at all.”
Public concern about global warming has waxed and waned over the past two decades, ranging between 50% and 72%. The average percentage over time for “worrying a great deal/fair amount” comes in at just under 60%, similar to the March 7-10 reading from Gallup’s 2013 Environment poll.
The same poll finds 54% of Americans saying the effects of global warming have already begun. This also matches the average in Gallup trends on this measure since 1997. The low points were recorded in 1997 and 2011, when less than half thought global warming’s effects were already manifest. The high point was recorded in 2008, at 61%. This year’s percentage represents a slight increase from the lows reached just a couple of years ago.
Gallup trends throughout the past decade — and some stretching back to 1989 — have shown generally consistent majority support for the idea that global warming is real, that human activities cause it, and that news reports on it are correct, if not underestimated. However, those views have shown significant variability.
Americans’ concerns about global warming peaked at points in the late 1980s and the late 1990s, and again between 2006 and 2008, possibly related to strong environmentalist campaigns to raise awareness of the issue at those times — including the release of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006.
Conversely, concerns receded in 2009 and 2010, particularly among Republicans and conservatives, corresponding with a flurry of publicity about scientists who doubt global warming is caused by human activities, as well as some controversy about global warming research. With all of this dying down somewhat in the last few years, attitudes are returning to previous levels, putting them near the long-term averages.
In contrast to majority acceptance of global warming as real, Gallup finds Americans less than alarmed. One-third worry “a great deal,” and 34% expect it to threaten their way of life. These could be the attitudes that matter most when it comes to Americans’ support for public policies designed to address the issue.