Friday, November 13, 2015

Americans Want Climate Action

Overwhelming Agreement on Climate

Americans not only agree that climate action is needed, they so overwhelmingly see the threat and want action that it is "hard to find this many Americans agreeing about anything."

That's the bottom line conclusion of Dr. Jon Krosnick of Stanford University.  Having studied and surveyed American attitudes about climate change for two decades, he's in a position to know.  Dr. Krosnick spoke recently at the University of California Sacramento Center, presenting his findings from years of survey work.

Dr. Jon Krosnick in Sacramento Nov 12, 2015

Over the years, Dr. Krosnick's surveys have gotten more sophisticated in addressing various misconceptions about public attitudes and opinions on climate.

Since 1997, Dr. Krosnick has seen a consistently high belief that global warming is or probably will happen, with between 82% and 88% of those surveyed recognizing the problem.

Support for Government Action Widespread

Fully 78% of Americans support government action on climate, according to the surveys.  "You only get up to these numbers at this level if there is endorsement of this policy not only be people who are comfortable with government action but a considerable number of americans who say, as a general rule, they prefer for government to stay out of the activity," said Dr. Krosnick.  "So this is remarkable issue in the sense that this is a place where people who are in general skeptical about government involvement support government activity."

One of the issues Dr. Krosnick says he hears is that there are geographic differences of opinion regarding global warming.  When he tested for this, he found that strong majority belief that global warming is happening in every area of the country.  "There is not a single state that is majority skeptic on this issue, said Dr. Krosnick.  The lowest number in any state is 75%.  Interestingly, some of the highest numbers are in Oklahoma, home of climate denier Senator Jim Inhofe.

Parakeets and Science

Dr. Krosnick got a laugh from the audience in Sacramento when he recounted getting a call from the New York Times asking for his response to the assertion by politicians that they have nothing to say about climate change because they are not scientists.  He said, "For a politician to say I am not a scientist is like saying I'm not a parakeet."  His polling shows that the not-a-scientist statement resonates better that absolute climate denial among very conservative voters.

Summary of Climate Polling:  Americans Green & Want Action

Dr. Krosnick gave the Sacramento audience a summary of his findings:

"A majority of Americans are green on this issue, There seems to be no regions of skepticism as far as we can tell ... It is in fact a priority for people .. They want their government to address it. People do appear willing to pay to reduce emissions. Taking green positions seems to help candidates win an election. A not-green position can hurt a candidate."

More on Dr. Krosnick's most recent national polling can be found at the New York Times site here and Resources for the Future here.

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