US public views on climate and energy

November 25, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 25, 2019) - Majorities of Americans say the federal government is doing too little for key aspects of the environment. And most believe the U.S. should focus on development of alternative sources of energy over expansion of fossil fuels, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

The survey, conducted Oct. 1-13 among 3,627 U.S. adults using the Center's American Trends Panel, finds that 67% of U.S. adults say the federal government is not doing enough to reduce the effects of climate change, and similar shares say the same about government efforts to protect air or water quality. While there is strong consensus among Democrats on the need for more government efforts to reduce the effects of climate change, Republican views are divided along ideological, generational and gender lines.

A majority of moderate or liberal Republicans (65%, including GOP-leaning independents) say the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change. In contrast, 24% of conservative Republicans say the same. A divide can also be seen by age; 52% of Millennial and Gen Z Republicans, ages 18 to 38 in 2019, say the government is taking too little action on climate, a higher share than of either Gen X (41%) or Baby Boomer and older Republicans (31%). Republican women (46%) also are more inclined than GOP men (34%) to think the government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change.

Other key findings include:

Most Americans say they are taking at least some action in their daily lives to protect the environment.Most Americans favor expanding renewable energy sources, but divides remain over expanding offshore drilling and nuclear power.How Americans view the impact of climate change depends on where they live.

A majority of Americans (62%) say that climate change is affecting their local community either a great deal or some. That figure remains fairly steady from last year, when 59% reported at least some local effects of climate change.Political groups remain divided over climate change causes and policies.

Overall, 49% of Americans say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change and another 30% say human actions have some role in climate change. Two-in-ten (20%) believe human activity plays not too much or no role at all in climate change. At the same time, a majority of Americans say that natural patterns in the Earth's environment contribute to climate change a great deal (35%) or some (44%). Just 4% of Americans say that neither human activity nor natural patterns in the Earth's environment contribute to global climate change at least some.The margin of sampling error for the full sample is plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.
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Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It does not take policy positions. The Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. Subscribe to our daily and weekly email newsletters or follow us on our Fact Tank blog.

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