Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans' Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in September 2012

This report is based on findings from a nationally representative survey, conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication (4C). In the Fall of 2012, the national survey was administered to determine Americans’ climate change and energy beliefs, attitudes, policy support, and behavior - instating the latest 'Climate Change in the American Mind Series.' This series was published in November 2011, and in the Spring of 2012 as well. 

One of four reports from the series, this paper provides specific detail on the nation's conception and attitude about climate change, ultimately revealing general trends in the public's beliefs and responses. According to the survey, seven in ten Americans (70%) believe global warming is happening, relatively few (12%) believe it is not, and today over half of Americans (58%) say they are “somewhat” or “very worried” about global warming. The number of Americans worried about global warming, in total and those “very worried”, is now at its highest level since November 2008. Graphs are charts are provided for every survey topic, visually demonstrating public opinion trends over the last four years. 

Other significant results, as presented in this report, illustrate that Americans’ beliefs about climate change have risen sharply from the decline observed between 2008 and 2010. More than half of Americans (54%) now believe global warming is caused mostly by human activities, an increase even since March 2012. Many Americans say people around the world (40%) and people in the U.S. (36%) are being harmed right now by climate change, and Americans increasingly perceive global warming as a threat to themselves (42%), their families (46%), and other people in their community (48%).

The data in this report are based on a nationally representative survey of 1,061 American adults, aged 18 and older, conducted from August 31 - September 12, 2012. All questionnaires were self administered by respondents in a web-based environment. Data tables at the end of the report include every question asked, and the percentages of responses, for each of seven surveys conducted since November 2008. The appendix following describes the survey methods in detail.

Publication Date: September 2012

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Anthony Leiserowitz
  • Ed Maibach
  • Connie Roser-Renouf
  • Geoff Feinberg
  • Peter Howe

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Resource Types:

  • Communication

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