American Climate Perspectives Survey 2020, Vol. I

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Americans Are Motivated to Act on Climate and Want Elected Leaders Who Prioritize Solutions

As the new decade begins, and with less than a decade to make needed progress, the climate movement is ramping up for rapid-scale action on climate change, calling for American and international leaders to dramatically elevate ambition on solutions.

But do Americans feel a sense of urgency for climate solutions and is it a top priority? Do they feel empowered to act on climate, or expect their elected leaders to act accordingly? ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners set out to find these answers in the latest American Climate Perspectives Survey.

ecoAmerica’s latest survey finds that Americans view climate change as an urgent issue, but believe our current government is too ill-equipped to address it. They believe they personally and we collectively can and need to take action now, that our country will be stronger for it, and that climate change should be a top issue for the next President and Congress. Most are eager to vote for candidates who will prioritize climate solutions. So, will 2020 candidates be as ambitious as their public expects them to be?

Me vs. We:  I Can and We Can Act on Climate, NOW

Americans want action on climate, but do they think we can address it, and how urgently? ecoAmerica finds that 3 in 4 Americans (75%) believe we need to take action now to reduce the pollution that causes climate change. And, a majority (79%) believe we CAN.

They also feel personal agency for climate action. Equal majorities (70%) believe that they personally can help reduce the pollution that causes climate change, and that they need to take action now to do just that.

Americans Want to Elect Climate Champions

Strong majorities of Americans believe that immediate action on climate change should be a priority for the next President and Congress (78% say it should be the top, very important, or somewhat important priority), with 62% saying a very important or top priority.

In contrast, Americans are pessimistic about the ability of our current government to tackle the issue, with 70% saying we could address climate change, but our government is broken and cannot agree on how to do it.

They also understand that solutions will bring benefits. Nearly 7 in 10 Americans (69%, including 50% who strongly agree) believe that investing in climate solutions will secure American communities and make our country stronger.

A similar solid majority (71%) believe we need to elect leaders who will prioritize climate change, with half (51%) strongly agreeing.



Potential to Triple Political Engagement on Climate in 2020

Various surveys have found that support for climate solutions does not necessarily translate into widespread civic engagement. ecoAmerica’s survey found similar results. Only 21% of Americans have contacted or voted for a candidate based on his or her support for taking action on climate change. However, twice as many more (43%) would be willing to do so. All counted, a majority of Americans (64%) have or would be willing to contact or vote for a climate candidate.

These findings point to the clear needs to 1) identify climate candidates locally, regionally, and nationally, and; 2) for aggressive get out the vote efforts letting Americans know their votes are crucial for a safe and healthy climate, and for solutions that will make our communities and country stronger.


Full data is available in the accompanying toplines.

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Lake Research Partners and ecoAmerica designed and administered this survey, the American Climate Metrics Survey, which was conducted online from September 16-19, 2019, when we reached 800 adults, and from October 25-28, 2019, when we reached 200 adults. The survey reached a total of 1,000 adults. The sample was drawn from an online panel and the respondents were screened to ensure that they were over the age of 18. The national sample was weighted slightly by race, gender by race, age by race, and party identification. Findings in the American Climate Perspectives Survey are pulled from the American Climate Metrics Survey.

The margin of error for the sample is +/-3.1%. In interpreting the survey results, it is important to note that all sample surveys are subject to possible sampling error. Thus, the results of a survey may differ from the results that would be obtained if the entire population was interviewed. The size of the sampling error depends upon both the total number of respondents in the survey and the percentage distribution of the responses to a particular question. For example, if 50% of the respondents in a sample of 1,000 respondents answered, “Yes” to a particular question, we can be 95% confident that the true percentage would fall within 3.1 points, or range from 46.9% to 53.1%.

Suggested Citation

Buttel, L., Kobayashi, N.M., Kobayashi N.P., Lake, C., Logan, D., Speiser, M., and Voss, J. (2020). American Climate Perspectives Survey 2020, Vol I: Americans Are Motivated to Act on Climate and Want Elected Leaders Who Prioritize Solutions.

ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners. Washington, DC.

© 2020 ecoAmerica.  The contents of this report may be shared and used under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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