Poll: Majority of US Adults Believe Climate Change Is Most Important Issue Today

The Harris Poll for American Psychological Association
02/06/20
  • More than half of U.S. adults (56%) say climate change is the most important issue facing society today, with 6 in 10 saying they have changed a behavior to reduce their contribution to climate change. Nearly three-quarters (72%) say they are very or somewhat motivated to make changes. 
     
  • While 7 in 10 say they wish there were more they could do to combat climate change, 51% of U.S. adults say they don’t know where to start. Among those who have already made behavior changes to reduce their contribution to climate change, when asked why they have not done more, 1 in 4 (26%) cite not having the resources, such as time, money or skills, to make changes.
     
  • 62% say they are willing to vote for a candidate because of his or her position on climate change.
     
  • Concern about climate change may be having an impact on mental health, with more than two-thirds of adults (68%) saying that they have at least a little “eco-anxiety,” defined as any anxiety or worry about climate change and its effects. These effects may be disproportionately having an impact on the country’s youngest adults; nearly half of those age 18-34 (47%) say the stress they feel about climate change affects their daily lives.
     
  • A quarter of those who have not yet made a behavior change to reduce their contribution to climate change say personally experiencing environmental impacts of climate change (e.g., natural disasters, extreme weather conditions) (25%) or seeing environmental impacts of climate change in their community (24%) would make them want to try to reduce their contribution to climate change. 
     
  • The most common behavior changes people have already made or are willing to make include: reducing waste, including recycling (89%); upgrading insulation in their homes (81%); limiting utility use in their homes (79%); using renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or purchasing electricity from a renewable energy supplier (78%); consuming less in general (77%) or limiting air travel (75%). 
     
  • Adults are less likely to say they have changed or are willing to change daily transportation habits (e.g., carpool, drive an electric or hybrid vehicle, use public transportation, walk or bike) (67%) or their diet (e.g., eat less red meat or switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet) (62%). 
     
  • A majority (70%) also say that they have already or are willing to take action such as working with their community to reduce emissions, for example by installing bike paths, hosting farmers markets or using community solar panels. And nearly 6 in 10 (57%) say that they have already or are willing to write or lobby elected officials about climate change action with a similar proportion (57%) saying they already have or are willing to join an organization or committee working on climate change action. 
     
  • The most common motivations for behavior changes among those who have taken action to reduce their contribution to climate change are wanting to preserve the planet for future generations (52%), followed by hearing about climate change and its impacts in the news (43%).
Topics:
Climate Impacts

How is climate change affecting people now and how will it affect us in the future?

Climate Impacts
Climate Solutions

How do we promote clean energy, energy efficiency, and other supportive policies?

Climate Solutions
Constituencies

How do different segments of the public think about, and respond to, climate change?

Constituencies
Social Sciences

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

Social Sciences
Access: Public