Washington, D.C. – As we settle into the new year and climate-fueled disasters continue to endanger communities across the country, leading environmental groups – EDF Action, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Sierra Club, and Climate Action Campaign – teamed up with Environmental Polling Consortium director David Gold to release a memo summarizing the critical environmental and climate polling data from 2021. These results mirror the polling trends Climate Power shared in a memo yesterday. In short: voters have heightened concern about climate change and want to see Congress take action.
- Climate change top of mind: 70% of people living in America said they are at least “somewhat” worried about climate change, and roughly one-third are reportedly “ very worried,” the highest figures that the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication have found in their tracking surveys.
- Climate linked with extreme weather: The latest survey conducted by Yale and George Mason in September 2021 also found that 70% of Americans believe that climate change is affecting weather in the United States, another record-high figure. And between March and September, the percentage of people saying that climate was affecting weather increased from 61% to 70%.
- Extreme heat, wildfires, and droughts most recognized as climate-driven: Yale and George Mason’s September survey shows that Americans are most likely to believe that climate change is having at least “some” effect on hot weather events such as extreme heat (68%), wildfires (67%), and droughts (66%).
- Republican voters’ attitudes toward clean energy highly malleable: The Pew Research Center found a dramatic change in self-identified Republicans’ attitudes about environmental issues between May 2020 and April 2021 – coinciding with the transition of power from Trump’s presidential administration to Biden’s. For example, 65% of Republican voters in early 2020 believed that the country should prioritize renewables over fossil fuels, dropping to 47% in April 2021. Yale and George Mason similarly saw that Republican voters’’ attitudes about clean energy shifted negatively between 2020 and early 2021, before rebounding in their September 2021 survey.
- Significant numbers of Republican voters disagree with how their party leaders are handling climate and environmental issues: A December survey for POLITICO and Morning Consult found that self-identified Republican voters nearly universally said they trusted Republicans in Congress over Democrats in Congress on issues such as the economy (88%), national security (88%), and immigration (88%). However, far fewer Republican voters said they trusted Republicans in Congress over Democrats in Congress on the environment (64%) and climate change (59%); these were the only issues that had double-digit percentages of Republicans trust Democrats over their own party.
- Climate change a top-tier priority for Democratic voters: The December POLITICO and Morning Consult survey also showed more Democrats said that passing a bill to address climate change should be a “top priority” for Congress (56%) than any other priority aside from stimulating the economy to recover from the coronavirus pandemic (65%) and passing a healthcare reform bill (57%). The Economist and YouGov recorded a similar trend in their mid-December survey where more self-identified Democrats named climate change and the environment as their single most important issue (26%) after health care (27%).
- The Build Back Better plan is popular, and resilient: Polls have consistently shown that the majority of voters support the Build Back Better Act when told about the provisions in the bill. Monmouth University conducted four polls since April 2021 and found consistent support between 61 and 64%. Similarly, Invest In America and Data for Progress found three-fifths support across four surveys since November 2021.
- Americans support climate action in Build Back Better, and want more: An October poll by the Sierra Club and Data for Progress showed majority support for a range of climate and clean energy provisions – including particularly high support for investments to make homes, buildings, and schools more energy-efficient (77%), investments to expand and strengthen the electric grid with more access to wind and solar power (71%), and rebates for rooftop solar (70%). An October poll by Climate Power and Data for Progress further found that 65% or more of voters nationwide said it was important to include each of eight Build Back Better provisions tested that related to climate and the environment.
- Scientists still trusted messengers on climate change: A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in April 2020, for example, found that the overwhelming majority of Americans (87%) trust scientists to act in the public’s best interests. Additionally, the Potential Energy Coalition conducted a persuasion experiment and found that scientists were highly effective messengers on climate change.
- The public wants to hold corporate polluters accountable for their damage: Polling by Data for Progress found that 77% of voters believe fossil fuel companies have “a lot” or “some” responsibility to address climate change. And the Pew Research Center found that 69% of voters believe that large corporations are doing “too little” to help reduce climate effects.
“Over the past year, we’ve seen unprecedented levels of public concern around climate and environmental issues,” said Environmental Polling Consortium Director David Gold. “This is a new reality that public officials and corporate America both need to wake up to. Americans are feeling the devastating effects of climate change in their everyday lives, and the old approaches of ignoring the problem or delaying action clearly don’t cut it anymore with the public.”
“As we begin a new year, we have to learn from the deadly and devastating climate-fueled extreme weather of 2021: the fires that have raged out west, the dangerous heat and record high-temperatures, and the deadly floods and storms,” said LCV Senior National Campaigns Director Megan Jacobs. “An overwhelming majority of communities across the country saw and experienced these impacts in 2021, so it should come as no surprise that an overwhelming majority of voters want to see action on climate, and they want to see it now.”
“The polling is clear: we’ve seen a big shift from 10 years ago with voters ranking climate and environment as a top priority. Voters are concerned about climate change and pollution and want to see bold action on clean energy and environmental protections. Elected officials need to act now and deliver real results to voters,” said Jack Pratt, EDF Action’s Senior Political Director.
“In poll after poll last year, Americans voiced concern about the very tangible and costly impacts of climate change they are seeing in their communities. These key polling takeaways demonstrate just how out of step many political and corporate leaders are with the general public on critical environmental and climate issues. Not only does science point to the need for urgent and bold climate action; Americans across the country – and across the partisan spectrum – demand it,” said Grace McRae, Sierra Club’s Polling and Research Director.
“Americans from coast to coast are increasingly alarmed about the climate crisis,” said Jonathan Sack, Midwest Campaign Director with NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “The polling is clear that voters want leaders to take action to solve the greatest challenge of our time, not continue to kick the can down the road to future generations. None of us can afford the cost of inaction on climate.”