Politics & Global Warming, December 2018

Anthony Leiserowitz, Edward Maibach, Seth Rosenthal, John Kotcher, Matthew Goldberg, Matthew Ballew, Abel Gustafson and Parrish Bergquist

Drawing on a nationally representative survey, this report describes how American registered voters — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents — view global warming, personal and collective action, and climate policies.

In 2017, after the inauguration of President Trump, we found that Republican acceptance that global warming is happening and is human-caused declined by 7 and 8 percentage points respectively from the prior year. Interestingly, however, these declines did not lead to increased denial that global warming is happening or human-caused. Instead, the declines led to an increase in Republicans saying “I don’t know” to both questions.
Research has shown that “political elite cues” can influence the opinions of partisans, i.e., that the views espoused by political leaders can influence the views of their followers. The declines in Republican acceptance of human-caused global warming in 2017 may thus have been driven in part by a “Trump Effect” in which the president’s statements and actions—an announcement that he will pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, his efforts to reverse the Clean Power Plan, and prior tweets suggesting that climate change is a hoax—likely had an effect on his fellow Republicans.
In 2018, however, something interesting happened. Despite President Trump’s continued statements suggesting global warming is not real or a serious issue, Republican views bounced back. As of December 2018, Republican acceptance that global warming is happening and human-caused increased by 5 and 7 percentage points, respectively, from October 2017. These results suggest that the “Trump Effect” has worn off and that Republicans (liberal, moderate, and conservative) are re-engaging the issue, having returned to near historic highs, though still at much lower levels than Democrats or Independents.
We also find that 67% of registered voters are worried about global warming, the highest percentage since our surveys began in 2008. This includes large majorities of liberal Democrats (95%) and moderate/conservative Democrats (80%).

Social Sciences

What influences people's thinking and reactions to climate change?

Social Sciences
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