Poll: Most Americans Believe in Man-Made Climate Change

Wildfire in Oregon.<a ref="http://www.flickr.com/photos/hllewellyn/">H Dragon</a>/Flickr

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

It could be all the wildfires and drought, the snowless-ski season, or the flowers blooming in New York City in February, or just that this past summer was hot as hell pretty much everywhere. Whatever the case, a new study concludes that most Americans believe that global warming is a real thing—and that people are causing it.

The study conducted by scientists from Yale and George Mason University shows that Americans’ belief in global warming has increased by 13 percentage points over the past two and a half years, from 57 percent in January 2010 to 70 percent in September 2012. At the same time, the number of Americans who say global warming is not happening has declined nearly by half, from 20 percent in January 2010 to 12 percent today.

The report comes on the heels of recent poll results reported by Chris Mooney and discussed earlier this month at the Climate Desk’s Live Event, showing that Americans—and specifically undecided voters—are increasingly leaning green.

Though the Yale/George Mason report draws no definite conclusions as to what could be clueing Americans in to the reality of climate change, the authors do say the record number of crazy weather events—not to mention the sticker shock of the disaster clean up costs—are likely bringing people around to the idea.

The study says a majority believes global warming is caused by humans, and “if left unchecked will have serious consequences for humans and the natural world:”

 Yale/George MasonYale/George Mason

Here are some other highlights of the report:

• Those who believe global warming is happening are more certain than those who do not. More than half of Americans who believe global warming is happening (57 percent) say they are “very” (30 percent) or “extremely sure” (27 percent).

•    By contrast, for the first time since 2008, less than than 50 percent of the unconvinced are very (27 percent) or extremely sure of their view (15 percent), a decrease of 15 percentage points since March 2012.     

•    Today more than half of Americans (58 percent) say they are “somewhat” or “very worried”—now at its highest level since November 2008.

•    Americans increasingly perceive global warming as a threat to themselves (42 percent, up 13 points since March 2012), their families (46 percent up 13 points), and/or people in their communities (48 percent, up 14 percentage points).

•    A growing number of Americans believe global warming is already harming people both at home and abroad. Four in ten say people around the world are being harmed right now by climate change (40 percent, up 8 percentage points since March 2012), while 36 percent say global warming is currently harming people in the United States (up 6 points since March).

•    Three out of four Americans (76 percent) say they trust climate scientists as a source of information about global warming, making them the most trusted source asked about in the survey.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend