Americans May Feel Isolated in Their Climate Concern
A recent survey by ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners found that Americans intend to vote for leaders who prioritize climate solutions. While these results show promise, it is important to track factors – such as climate concern – that will help keep Americans motivated to follow through in the voting booths.
The climate movement is bracing for the most critical election to date. Speculation on the relative priority of climate solutions vs. other issues is not optional. Are Americans concerned about climate change? Do they believe that others around them share their climate concern? ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners set out to find these answers in the latest American Climate Perspective Survey.
ecoAmerica and Lake’s latest survey found a significant gap in the level of reported actual versus perceived concern about climate change. Oppositional forces aside, this gap may help to explain some of the obstacles to deeper engagement on the issue. Concern about climate change is a consensus perspective in the U.S., however few think others around them share their concerns.
A Majority of Americans are Concerned About Climate
Three in four (74%) Americans report being concerned about climate change, including just under half (45%) who are very concerned. An additional 14% are ‘a little’ concerned, bringing the total to 88%. Only a slim 12% report that they are not at all concerned. So, with an apparent high consensus of climate concern, one would think we would see more discussion and action on the issue.
But, Americans Think Few Around Them are Concerned
ecoAmerica and Lake Research finds that although there is a consensus of concern about climate change, Americans believe few others around them are concerned. Only 59% of Americans believe others around them are concerned about climate change, 15-points below the actual sentiment of 74%. Analyzing those who are ‘very concerned’ about climate change: 45% say they are personally very concerned, but only half as many (23%) believe others around them are ‘very concerned,’ a 22-point difference. Of the meager 12% of Americans who are not at all concerned about climate change, 82% of them falsely believe that others around them also lack concern (saying others are a little or not at all concerned), when the opposite is true.
The gap in actual vs. perceived climate concern could be contributing to silence on the issue, and points to the increasingly urgent need for visible climate leadership and public discourse.
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%.
Buttel, L., Kobayashi, N.M., Kobayashi N.P., Lake, C., Logan, D., Speiser, M., and Voss, J. (2020). American Climate Perspectives Survey 2020, Vol II: Americans May Feel Isolated in Their Climate Concern.ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners. Washington, DC.
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