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New Hope for Action: Key Republican Climate Attitudes Shift

As we begin the new year, many are wondering whether 2019 will mark a turning point for climate action. While the issue has been plagued by partisan divide, ecoAmerica’s new research has found hopeful year over year shifts in attitudes, particularly among Republicans who are becoming increasingly aware, concerned, and supportive of action on climate. Republicans on climate change:

  • 64% agree that climate change is happening
  • Over half (54%) are personally concerned, up 9-points from 45% in 2015
  • 69% are hopeful that we can reduce the pollution that is causing climate change

ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners’ 2018 American Climate Metrics Survey shows that, in addition to Democrats and Independents, Republicans are ready for climate engagement. While their trust in climate leaders is mixed, the key for engagement is to help them see the benefits that climate solutions bring to the economy, jobs and our health. Because, despite rhetoric to the contrary, Republicans (and most Americans) want their cities to prepare for climate change. Support for oil and gas is dwindling, most believe the U.S. should be producing more clean energy, and high majorities support a spectrum of climate solutions.

A Majority Believe Climate and Weather Change is Happening

ecoAmerica’s American Climate Metrics Survey found that 80% of Americans understand that climate change is happening, including 94% of Democrats, 71% of Independents, and 64% of Republicans (up from 58% in 2015). Two in three Republicans now say they are noticing more severe and changing seasonal weather over recent years, representing a 14-point gain over three years, the highest gain amongst the three parties.

Have you noticed more severe weather or changing seasonal weather patterns over the last several years, or not?:

800 respondent(s) total nationally, % agree, “Strongly agree” and “Not so strongly agree”

Americans are Concerned about Climate, Think Few Others are Concerned

A majority (73%) of Americans are concerned about climate change, including 90% of Democrats and 66% of Independents. However, the largest gain in concern has been among Republicans, reporting a 9-point increase in concern since 2015 (from 45% in 2015 to 54% in 2018, with a peak of 59% in 2017). ecoAmerica also asked whether Americans believe others around them are concerned, and most believe they are less concerned than they actually are. Americans think only 57% of others are concerned, with 55% of Republicans, 54% of Independents, and 60% of Democrats believing this.

So, If Republicans are Ready to Engage, Who do They Trust For Guidance?

Republicans are looking most to scientists (63%), the President (48%), environmental organizations (47%), and health professionals (44%) for guidance on climate change. Compared to 2015, they have increasing trust of many types of leaders for information, including environmental organizations (up 10-points since 2015) and local community leaders (up 12-points since 2015). However, since 2017 their trust for information on climate has waned across categories, most notably with media, Congress, and federally elected officials. The chart below highlights shifts in trust for information on climate change.

As a source of information about climate change, how much do you trust each of the following?

275 Republican respondent(s) total in 2018, % “A lot” and “Some”

Republican Support for Natural Gas and Oil Production is Dwindling…

Republican Support for Natural Gas Production is Dwindling

 

ecoAmerica’s multiyear study shows consistent high majority and bipartisan support for clean energy.  89% of Americans think the U.S. should produce more wind and solar energy, including 87% of Republicans who think this.

 

 

Republican Support for Oil Production is Dwindling

 

Although two in three Republicans would like the U.S. to produce more natural gas, and half say more oil, support has waned 13- and 15-points since 2015, respectively (down from 81% and 67%). Republican support for clean energy wins by 20- and 35-points.

 

 

…While Republican Support for Local Climate Action Increases

A majority (60%) of Republicans want their city to prepare for the impacts of climate change. And, they increasingly want their cities to conserve energy (48%), develop clean energy like wind or solar (46%), and educate the public about climate change (36%), in 14-, 22-, and 21-point increases since 2015.

Republican Support for Local Climate Action Increases

275 Republican respondent(s) total in 2018, % “Much more” and “Somewhat more”

Americans Support A Spectrum of Climate Solutions

City, state and federal policymakers need not waste too much time deciding which climate solutions to move forward. A spectrum of solutions (in addition to clean energy) enjoy majority public support across political affiliations, such as modernizing the electric grid, charging corporate polluters a fee for the pollution they create, laws for more efficient buildings and cars, clean energy and clean car tax credits, and expanding public transit.

* Full data is available in the accompanying toplines by political party timeseries.

Methodology

ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners designed and administered this survey, which was conducted online September 14-18th, 2018. The survey yielded a total of 800 adult responses. 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 region, age, race, and education. The margin of error for the sample is +/-3.5%. 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 802 respondents answered, “Yes” to a particular question, we can be 95% confident that the true percentage would fall within 3.5 points, or range from 46.5% to 53.5%.

Special Thanks

ecoAmerica is grateful to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur for its generous support.

Suggested Citation

Speiser, M., Kobayashi, N., Lake, C., and Voss, J.  (2019). American Climate Perspectives Survey: January 2019. New Hope for Action: Key Republican Climate Attitudes Shift. ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners. Washington, DC.
© 2019 ecoAmerica.  The contents of this report may be shared and used under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

For more information contact us at research@ecoAmerica.org

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