WHO SHOULD TAKE ACTION

As Jon Krosnick explains in the video above, the public has been sending clear signals about global warming policy: most people have believed that governments, businesses, and individuals should take action to reduce future warming, as explained in detail below.

U.S. GOVERNMENT ACTION

Consistently, large majorities of Americans have said that the federal government should devote effort to dealing with global warming. In 1997, more than three-quarters (77%) of people surveyed said the government should do at least a moderate amount. That position has remained fairly consistent throughout the years, as shown in the figure below. In 2020, this proportion reached an all-time high of 82%.

Question wording can be found here.

However, relatively few Americans believe that the U.S. Government has been doing at least a moderate amount to deal with this issue. Since 2013, only about 40% of respondents reported believing that the government was doing even a moderate amount about global warming, with this proportion being 41% in 2020. 


Question wording can be found here.
As such, many do not believe that the federal government’s actions on global warming are currently sufficient. 68% of people in 2020 said that the U.S. government should do more than it is doing now, as shown in the figure below.

Question wording can be found here.

FOREIGN GOVERNMENT ACTION

Large majorities of Americans also have expressed the desire to see foreign governments take action against global warming as well. When asked how much they believed that foreign governments should be doing about this issue, 77% of Americans believed that these governments should be doing at least a moderate amount in 1997, with this number steadily increasing to 84% in 2020.


Question wording can be found here.

However, few Americans believe that the foreign governments have been doing at least a moderate amount to deal with global warming. This proportion was 27% in 1997 and 45% in 2020.


Question wording can be found here.

Similar to their sentiments about the U.S. Government, large majorities of Americans also believed that governments in other countries should do more about the issue of global warming. In 2020, 71% of Americans believed this, almost identical to the all-time high of 72% who believed this in 1997.


Question wording can be found here.

UNILATERAL ACTION

One might imagine some Americans would be reluctant to support U.S. economic compromises to deal with global warming if other nations do not do so, because those countries might gain an economic advantage in the global marketplace. But few Americans appear to think that way. In 2015, 75% of Americans believed that the U.S. should take action on global warming even if other countries do less than the U.S. This was an increase from the 67% of Americans who held that belief in 2008 (see the figure below).


Question wording can be found here.

SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT SEE GLOBAL WARMING AS A PRIORITY?

Depending on recurring political and societal issues like the economy, crime, and foreign affairs, people change the issues they consider the most important for the country to address. It is possible that people might see global warming as a problem for the nation and the world, but might not necessarily consider it a high priority in the context of other issues.

So do Americans want their leaders to prioritize global warming? In 2015, a slight majority of Americans said yes. Across positions and party affiliation, Americans wanted politicians to attach more importance the issue of global warming than they thought they currently did. They thought global warming should be extremely or very important to President Obama (53%), to congressional Democrats (52%), and to congressional Republicans (52%) (see the following three figures).


 Data collected in January 2015. Question wording can be found here.


 Data collected in January 2015. Question wording can be found here.


 Data collected in January 2015. Question wording can be found here.

But, in 2015, people said they did not see leaders in Washington assigning appropriate priority to the issue. As shown in the three figures below, about half of respondents thought that President Obama should increase the importance he accorded to the issue of global warming (43%). With regard to congressional Democrats, 46% of people said lawmakers should attach more importance to global warming. For congressional Republicans, the number was 56%.


 Data collected in January 2015. Question wording can be found here.


 Data collected in January 2015. Question wording can be found here.


 Data collected in January 2015. Question wording can be found here.

OTHER ACTORS

Americans have indicated that actors outside of the government should also play roles in dealing with global warming, including businesses and average people.

When asked how much business should be doing to deal with this issue, consistently large majorities of Americans believed that U.S. businesses should be doing at least a moderate amount, as shown in the figure below. In 2020 this proportion was 83%.


Question wording can be found here.

Despite this high level of agreement on how much U.S. businesses should be doing about global warming, far fewer Americans believed that these businesses were living up to this standard. In fact, only 45% of Americans believed that U.S. businesses were doing a moderate amount or more in 2020.


Question wording can be found here.

Additionally, a majority of Americans (about 70%) have thought that American businesses should do more than they were currently doing to address global warming since 1997. There was a slight dip in this percentage in 2009 when the majority fell to 58%, but it increased again in 2012 to 71% and has remained near that amount since then, with 71% believing this again in 2020.


Question wording can be found here.

Americans also believed that average people should be taking action to slow global warming, with large majorities believing average people should be doing at least a moderate amount to deal with this issue. This proportion was at an all-time high of 82% in 2020.


Question wording can be found here.

Similar to the other actors that have been discussed previously, the percentage of Americans that believe that average people have currently been doing at least a moderate amount about global warming is relatively small. This percentage ranged from 26% in 1998 to 45% in June and November of 2010. In 2020, this proportion was 37%.


Question wording can be found here.

Moreover, since 1997, a majority of Americans have said that average people should do more to address global warming (see figure below). In 2013, the size of this majority reached 74%, and in 2020, it was 72%.


Question wording can be found here.