CNN Poll: Do Americans agree with Obama on climate change and immigration?
January 22nd, 2013
05:00 AM ET
10 years ago

CNN Poll: Do Americans agree with Obama on climate change and immigration?

Washington (CNN) - Saying "we will respond to the threat of climate change," President Barack Obama used his second inaugural address to put the divisive issue back on the front burner. But according to a new national survey, Americans are divided over whether global warming is a man made phenomenon.

The president also used his speech to highlight the controversial issue of illegal immigration, and a CNN/ORC International survey released Tuesday also indicates that a bare majority of the public says the main focus of the federal government should be on developing a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants to become legal residents, rather than deporting them.

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The president warned in his Monday address that failure to respond to climate change "would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms."

According to the poll, which was conducted last week, 49% agree with the White House that global warming is a proven fact and is due to emissions from cars, power plants and factories. That's twice as high as the number who say that global warming has not been proven, as well as the 24% who say that it is a proven fact but is not due to manmade sources. But the 49% figure is down seven points from 2007.

There's an expected partisan divide on the question, with two-thirds of Democrats saying global warming is man made. That number drops to 48% among independent voters and is at 28% among Republicans.

The president tried and failed in his first term to get a climate change bill through Congress. The president also came up empty during his first four years in the White House in trying to pass comprehensive illegal immigration reform though Congress.

But Obama has put the issue on his to-do list this year, and in his inaugural address he said "our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country."

By a 53%-43% margin, people questioned in the poll say that main focus of the federal government should be on developing a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants to become legal residents, rather than deporting them.

That's a switch from 2011, when by a 55%-42% margin, Americans said that deporting undocumented residents and stopping more of them from coming into the country should be the main focus of U.S policy on illegal immigration.

As expected, the poll indicates a partisan divide on the issue, as well as a generational divide, with younger people saying allowing undocumented immigrants to become legal should be the top priority, and a slight plurality of those 50 and older saying the emphasis should be on deportation and border security.

One of the president's biggest domestic accomplishments in his first term was passing a sweeping health care bill through Congress in 2010. In his inauguration address, Obama acknowledged that there is still much work ahead on this issue, saying "we must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care."

According to the poll, 51% favor all or most of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act, the official name of what many people refer to as "Obamacare," with 44% opposed to all or most of the provisions in the law.

"That's a switch from 2011, when a CNN poll indicated that a majority opposed all or most of the provisions in the health care bill," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

Minutes after his inauguration speech, the president signed documents making official his nominations for some top Cabinet posts, including former Sen. Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. The Nebraska Republican's nomination has been met with reservations, and even outright opposition, by some senators of both parties, who point to past positions he has taken on Israel, Iran and the war in Iraq.

According to the poll, 48% think the Senate should confirm Hagel.

"That's twice as high as the number who oppose his confirmation, but with three in ten uncertain of how they feel about the issue, the White House might breathe a little easier if support for Hagel were just over 50% rather than just under that mark," adds Holland.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International on Jan. 14-15, with 814 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

soundoff (310 Responses)
  1. Livin' in Ohio

    So many Americans deny scientific evidence and would prefer, it seems, to believe that the Earth is flat, is only a few thousand years old, and so on.... And then there's the immigration question; immigrants are seen as a threat to jobs and other resources or aren't liked for simply being culturally/ethnically different. When you're dealing with that much ignorance it's difficult to make progress, and if they somehow became legislative leaders... God, help the President and the rest of us!

    January 22, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  2. Getoverit

    And what about the economy.....?

    January 22, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  3. Melissa

    26% of republicans don't believe in man icauses of global warming: that is the reason we have to
    Ignore these people. They deny science and hold the country back

    January 22, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  4. CarolinaGirl

    Vic, I feel so sorry for you; how sad to think the way you do. Plenty of us that live in the South understand there is a problem with global warming and something needs to be done about assault weapons. And Rick McDaniel, isn't that what your party strives for "pesants striving on welfare"?

    January 22, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  5. Ancient Texan

    Steve and Rudy- Contrary to your beliefs, the average Tea Party member is much better educated than the average American citizen. Do you really think that respecting the Constitution and wanting smaller, less intrusive government is a sign of ignorance?

    January 22, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  6. rs

    I suspect that most Americans are at least interested in making the situations around these two issues better. No one wants open borders, and no one wants to live in a cess pool.

    Look- worrying about the economic issues only (perhaps other than more jobs) makes no sense if we're poisoning where we live. Using the excuse that China does it (and by extension, so should we) just accelerates the inevitable.
    Yes, it is a problem that virtually all of the climate change denyers live in the ranks of the GOP, but their world view will change- they are on a course for extinction at the moment, and they will either wake up or die (as a political party).
    The Immigration front is harder. We ARE a nation of immigrants, and always have been. It is in both our best interests and our heritage to allow people to emmigrate to the U.S., especially when they bring a will to work and to make things better. Again our friends in the GOP have difficulty here, but I more suspect that if they can get over their fear of non-whites, and incorporate the needs of different peoples into their platform, they will get more minorities in their party, which in turn will moderate their currently poisonous message.

    January 22, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  7. critical thinking

    global warming is perfect for this President. No ability to track the results of all the mis spending while China belches out carbon footprints that stomp out our economic growth.

    No, no, no!!!

    Mr. President focus on the economy stupid.

    January 22, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  8. Disgusted

    Get real! His next focus is where to vacation next. I guess the economy is out of the picture AGAIN!

    January 22, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  9. RINO Bill

    Like immigration, the Republicans better get on the Climate Change bandwagon or 2014 and 2016 will be very bad years for them. In this case they need to embrace replace their politcal dogma with real science.

    January 22, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  10. mphilm

    Global warming is a fact. But so is global cooling. The questions are, what causes them, can we do anything significant about them, and should we try.

    January 22, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  11. Pete

    It's the bible toting righties that don't believe climate change even after its facts are stuck in their faces...Bush if you remember denounced climate change paying actors to play scientists to debunk Al Gores facts in a televised debate..So now after almost 3 decades since Carter as president put solar panels on the White House roof which were taken down by your extremist Reagan we see there's actually something negetive happening to earth and its our fault,imagine that!!Pres.Obama remember has 4 years and doesn't have to worry about who's toes he steps on so you'll see a more demanding ,forceful president and remember republicans you have only to 2014 for midterms and you'll all be out,take my warning seriously because neither is something to sneeze about!!

    January 22, 2013 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  12. MaryM

    Of course they do. That is why Americans re-elected President Obama

    January 22, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Yes we do agree with our President on those and a host of other issues that he included in his outstanding innauguration speech yesterday.
    We stand behind our President. When are you going to understand that THIS ONE speaks for US?
    On another note it was a great day to be a volunteer at the innaugural.
    Hundreds of us volunteers had wonderful weather to put our best foot forward and welcome everyone to our President's second innauguration. Along with a crowd of OVER A MILLION we gave our President a beautiful send-off into his second term.
    Proud to be an American.
    Godspeed to our President and Commander-In-Chief.

    January 22, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  14. kevin

    hey melissa obama called for unity yesterday but you say ignore these people. 8 million less people looking for a job then four yrs. ago. payroll tax went up for middle-class in the tone of 1,000 to 1,500 $. oh but wait you dont care because obama tax the rich too that makes you feal better. the real person he wants you and you are to stupid to see it .

    January 22, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  15. Tampa Tim

    Republicans don't have time to deal with reality. When their party is made up of Birthers, conspiracy theorists, and people who would rather destroy our country, than work with a black man in the White House. To the GOP, the only way to bring people together is to attack women, immigrants, seniors, college students, the poor, the needy, veterans, the middle class, unions, and minorities.

    January 22, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  16. Judd

    It is unfortunate that so few understand that this conversation is about taxing carbon as a new source of revenue and society control and not about climate change. With increases in income taxes now effectively off the table from the debt cliff deal, expect a resurgence of this rationale to enter the political debate through the MSM along with more discussions of a European style VAT. How else will the president's agenda be funded? Certainly not from growth in the "new normal".

    January 22, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  17. ohio

    Why this argument that never ends? Whether climate change is real or not? I don't see how people
    would not want to be responsible and save money. My family and i discuss this frequently–what is wrong
    with having a composte box, or recycling plastic by putting it in a recycling bin next to the garbage can?
    I am so tired of hearing(for years) these sore losers–and no one seems to whine better than GOP crowds
    when a dem is in office–I thought a lot of Obama's address made sense. It is no wonder the GOP ranks
    are getting smaller. If they keep acting like recent times i say good riddens. This is one ohio voter who
    has been turned off by their clinging to the 50s–it's not the 50s and the 50s are not coming back.

    January 22, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  18. Tilo

    We live in unbalanced, we try to control everything so our world must balance. Although humanity looks at everything has disasters this is natural balance in the universe, so for every thing in nature that is changed in unbalance will eventually balance, it's the fundamental law behind the Universe, to be in harmony with all we must learn to Love each other and our world.

    January 22, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  19. Tampa Tim

    Republicans want the president to focus on the economy, but have voted against anything that would help Americans. Republicans gave us our first Great Depression, a near depression, unfunded wars, bank bailouts and class warfare. Yet 29% of Americans still claim to be a republican.

    January 22, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  20. pjoe

    It is a matter of messaging.

    If you are a believer in man-made global warming ... congratulations. Perhaps you are more enlightened than the rest of us. Perhaps you are just gullible. Your belief does not make you a scientist. Your belief does not make it your right to infringe on the rights of others.

    Do you want to make a difference?

    First, stop the obnoxious name-calling. Your "science" is weak. Skeptics are not deniers, they just require better evidence than you can provide.

    Secondly, find better communicators. Most global-warming skeptics would be in favor of "reducing pollution" or "reducing our reliance on foreign oil" (especially from countries whose people see us as the Great Satan). Most skeptics will happily buy a hybrid or electric car to counter both of those problems. Even the worst skeptic would happily buy an electric car if it makes economic sense. The point is ... minimize your "global warming" or "climate change" preaching. It is unnecessary to achieve your goal, and you will come closer to achieving your goals by making it a secondary benefit.

    Third ... firm up your science. Quit faking results. Quit defending fake results. IT HURTS YOUR CAUSE FOREVER.

    January 22, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  21. snowdogg

    "we will respond to the threat of climate change,"

    I would quibble with the term "threat"... it is a process... we need to understand and formulate an appropriate response... many things will have to change socially and technologically.

    January 22, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  22. Rudy NYC

    Ancient Texan wrote:

    Steve and Rudy- Contrary to your beliefs, the average Tea Party member is much better educated than the average American citizen. Do you really think that respecting the Constitution and wanting smaller, less intrusive government is a sign of ignorance?
    If the extreme right wing had so much respect for the Constitution, then why do want to make so many changes to it?

    One way to define ignorance is when people place a higher priority on beliefs over facts. You're entitled to your own opinions when it comes to the education level of the average Tea Party member. All I can say is this about it. I know a lot of idiots with college degrees. Mitt Romney is a living embodiment of that FACT.

    January 22, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  23. Tom

    Obama's speech was almost universally panned by the conservative media. No surprise there, but their primary complaint seemed to be Obama failed to address the issues important to the conservative media. I think Obama made a good choice in declaring a different set of priorities and ideals. Public opinion seems to track more closely to Obama's position than the Republicans on a variety of issues. Why not leverage the growing gap between Republican ideals and the majority of Americans? Any meaningful negotiation with Republicans in Congress seems to be impossible, so why not leverage the impasse and paint the Republicans as being out-of-touch with American values?

    January 22, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  24. Thomas

    The Economy and Environment are the same.

    Let them eat coal .
    Weather report today in Beijing , dark clouds of smog , visibility 15 ft.

    January 22, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  25. Evelyn

    I agree with the president on climate change. However when it comes to illegal immigration ,to consider any form of amnesty will only compound the problem as they will flood the border.and America cannot support all these unskilled ,uneducated people .Nor should we.

    America's hispanic and black younger population have a higher unemployment rate than the whites and asians .Yet all of this age group of those with a high school education or less continue to struggle to find jobs.It does not make sense to allow more people to stay here when there is not enough jobs

    America's people middle class and those wanting to enter the middle class has been declining since the great amnesty in 1986 when we ignored the border and allowed all these folks in . Didn't seem to matter if they came in illegally or just over stayed there visa's allowing employers an abundance of cheap labor .

    No immigration change should occur until we have a E-Verify system in place and our government has shown it is serious about making sure employers do not employ these people.

    January 22, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
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