Polling climate and politics

10.11.2016

Pew Research Center

A new survey from the Pew Research Center suggests, "Political fissures on climate issues extend far beyond beliefs about whether climate change is occurring and whether humans are playing a role ... These divisions reach across every dimension of the climate debate, down to people's basic trust in the motivations that drive climate scientists to conduct their research."

Asked, "Which of these three statements about the Earth's temperature comes closest to your view?" 48% of respondents preferred or leaned toward "The Earth is getting warmer mostly because of human activity such as fossil fuels," 31% preferred or learned toward "The Earth is getting warmer mostly because of natural patterns in the Earth's environment," and 20% preferred or leaned toward "There is no solid evidence that the Earth is getting warmer."

The Pew Research Center's report observed, "there are wide differences among political party and ideology groups on whether or not human activity is responsible for warming temperatures. A large majority of liberal Democrats (79%) believe the Earth is warming mostly because of human activity. In contrast, only about one-in-six conservative Republicans (15%) say this, a difference of 64 percentage points."

Asked, "As far as you know, how many climate scientists say that human behavior is mostly responsible for global climate change?" 27% of respondents preferred "Almost all," 35% preferred "More than half," 20% preferred "About half," 11% preferred "Fewer than half," and 4% preferred "Almost none"; 3% offered no answer. ("Almost all" is correct: multiple surveys show that the level of consensus among climate scientists is upward of 97%.)

There was a similar political split with regard to the question about scientific consensus. While 55% of liberal Democrats responding preferred the "Almost all" answer, the Pew Research Center's report noted, "[s]ome 29% of moderate/conservative Democrats say almost all climate scientists agree that human behavior is responsible for climate change, while some 16% of conservative Republicans and 13% of moderate/liberal Republicans say the same."

The survey was conducted May 10-June 6, 2016, by web and mail. "The margin of sampling error for the sample of 1,534 respondents is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points. ... In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls."