Before the U.S. General Election, Evidence of Agreement — and Division — on Climate Issues

A new survey finds that while partisan divides persist on certain issues, the majority of Americans want action on climate change and believe unchecked warming will be a serious problem.

Just one month before an election in which climate change may be a key issue, new survey results show that climate change may be less politically polarizing than many might expect.

Climate Insights 2020: Partisan Divide–the fourth installment in a series of survey reports by researchers at Stanford University, Resources for the Future, and ReconMR–illustrates climate-related beliefs, attitudes, and policy preferences across the political spectrum. The survey, which polled 999 American adults from May to August 2020, identifies the issues on which political groups agree–and disagree. And although there are situations in which opinions differ along party lines, there is also bipartisan support on a number of issues related to climate change.

Topline Findings

  • 94% of Democrats believe climate change has been happening, as do 67% of Republicans.
  • Majorities of Republicans (56%), Independents (77%), and Democrats (86%) believe that they have personally seen the effects of climate change.
  • Majorities of Republicans (53%), Independents (71%), and Democrats (96%) favor pursuing the goals of the Paris Agreement.
  • Majorities of all three groups think that the US government should act to deal with climate change.
  • 43% of Democrats attach extreme personal importance to climate change, compared to 22% of Independents and 4% of Republicans.

“While some observers have claimed that climate change is a deeply partisan issue, the data show more nuance–majorities of all three groups of Americans agree on the existence, causes, and threat of climate change, as well as on various government policies that could be used to mitigate future warming,” report co-author Jon Krosnick said. “And the partisan gap dividing American public opinion on this issue is smaller than it is on many other important issues facing the country.”

To learn more about these findings, read the partisan divide installment of Climate Insights 2020 by Bo MacInnis, lecturer at Stanford University and PhD economist, and Jon Krosnick, social psychologist at Stanford University and RFF university fellow. The Climate Insights 2020 interactive data tool also allows users to explore the data in greater depth.

Future report installments in this series will focus on electric vehicles and a state-level breakdown. Previous installments of reports focus on overall trendsnatural disasters, and climate policies.

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