Poll: Many Americans not all that concerned about climate change
June 25th, 2013
07:23 AM ET
10 years ago

Poll: Many Americans not all that concerned about climate change

Washington (CNN) – As President Obama is expected to lay out his plans for combating global climate change Tuesday, Americans don't seem to be overly concerned about the threat from the environment, according to a new poll.

Americans were far less likely to name global climate change as a major threat to their country compared to international counterparts, according to a new poll spanning more than three dozen countries from the Pew Research Center released Monday.

Just two out of every five Americans, 40%, said that global climate change was a major threat to the United States. That is compared to 54% of all countries surveyed who said climate change was a serious threat to their respective countries.

The 37,653 people surveyed between the beginning of March and the beginning of May spanned 39 countries and included those in China, Russia and Canada as well as countries in Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Citizens of China, Israel and several other nations also registered a similarly low level of concern compared to the average of all countries surveyed.

Climate change was most likely to be seen as a serious problem in Latin America, where 65% said it was a major threat. The same was true of 54% of Canadians, Europeans and those in Africa. Of the regions surveyed, only the Middle East had a similar percentage to the U.S. of people identifying climate change as a major threat, at 42%.

The survey assessed concerns for a variety of perceived threats, from Islamic extremist groups and international financial instability to the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea, political instability in Pakistan and power and influence wielded by the United States and China.

For Americans, the big concerns were North Korea's nuclear programs and Islamic extremist groups, with 59% and 54% respectively of those surveyed identifying those issues as major threats to the country.

A politically divisive issue, climate change is accepted as fact by most researchers.

In separate polls, Americans have shown a concern for climate change, with 33% identifying climate change as very serious and another 32% saying it's somewhat serious, according to a March poll from Pew.

In another March poll, Gallup found that 47% of Americans thought the government wasn't doing enough to protect the environment, while 35% thought the government was doing the right amount and 16% said too much was being done.

Pew's poll of major threats was conducted via telephone and in-person interviews between March 2 and May 1 under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The sampling error varied between countries, with the U.S. at +/- 3.5 percent and the rest between +/- 3.3 percent and +/- 7.7 percent.

Filed under: climate change • Environmental policy • Polls • President Obama
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz aka Take Back The House

    People don't believe in climate change until it adversely affects them. Look no further than the intensity of the tornadoes in the Midwest or the more severe hurricanes/noreasters on the east coast. Climate change is real! I fear it may already be too late to do anything about it. The polar caps are melting, there are rising sea levels and in this whole debate, no one seems to mention that. Why?

    June 25, 2013 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  2. Gurgyl

    --because they are bunch of stupid and writing this article you sure are too. Can't you see the change in temperature. Stop cutting TREES–GREED by housing industry. Weather is changing.

    June 25, 2013 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  3. Data Driven

    Whistling past the graveyard, eh, America? Oh, and I guess the heck with the quality of life for your descendants.

    "I want the world, I want the whole world
    I want to lock it all up in my pocket
    It's my bar of chocolate
    Give it to me now!" - Veruca Salt

    June 25, 2013 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  4. tom l.

    Just another way for the government to try to take more control of the masses.

    June 25, 2013 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Climate change is a serious threat. It's changing faster now than at any other period that has been measured.

    June 25, 2013 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  6. HenryMiller

    Obama and his would-be tyrannies are a far greater threat to this country than "global warming." The planet has been getting warmer and colder for millions of years without human help, and it's going to go on doing that.

    June 25, 2013 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  7. Rick McDaniel

    Stupid people who have their head in the sand, is one problem.

    A President, who is using "environmental" actions, to continue his subversive bankrupting of this country, is an entirely different problem.

    June 25, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  8. Tony in Maine

    During the last decades of the glory days of Rome, the government distracted the people with games in which lions and gladiators made mincemeat of ordinary folks. Kind of like the current distraction called reality television. The gladiators are "personalities" like Simon whatever his name is and Paula A. The ordinary folks are those who have a dream however ill grounded.

    And that is why most people know nothing about global warming or anything else that might require Boehner, Reid and McConnell to actually do something besides collect paychecks and run to the nearest videocam on the Capitol steps.

    June 25, 2013 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  9. onlyfacts

    Thousand of highly educated, experienced, SCIENTISTS worldwide have concluded from gathering highly technical data obtained from highly technical equipment that man's burning of fossil fuels and deforrestation is adding to the planet warming up to conditions never experienced by humans. (Google: CO2 Isotopes). These scientists write papers on their findings which are reviewed and commented on by other scientists. 97% of these scientists agree man is causing this unprecedented warming and the unusual weather we are experiencing. Scientists in other countries have no "Liberal Agenda" here in America. These scientists get paid to present their findings regardless if their results show warming or cooling. So many Americans listen to FOX "news" and Rush and believe their "expert" "opinion" over the scientists who are qualified. Ignorant people WILL cause the destruction of the human race. Wake up fools!

    June 25, 2013 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  10. Tigas

    Climate change? Sorry... too busy
    – getting spied on by the NSA
    – watching Obama use the IRS to target political enemies
    – seeing the cost of living continue to go up
    – anticipating the 'train wreck' known as ObamaCare
    etc. etc. etc.

    June 25, 2013 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  11. Randy, San Francisco

    Poll numbers reflect the current conditions in America: deep polarization in politics, slow recovering economy, and poorly educated populace, especially in science and math.

    June 25, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  12. RandyIA

    1970's Global Cooling was a concern.
    1990's Global Warming was a concern.
    2010's Climate change is concern.
    The environmentalists had to change the syntax because they could not longer decide how we need to react, now they are good both ways.

    In my opinion global warming/cooling is very much happening. Is man causing it? Who knows. They keep saying that parts of the Arctic are being exposed for the first time in 1000's of years. What was man doing 1000's of years ago that caused it back then.

    June 25, 2013 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  13. plain&simple

    Only education can save the day!!! To bad the teapubs cut every penny they can from anything to do with getting a good one. I realize they have avested iinterest in keeping the general populas uneducated...bigger voting pool for them. Nothing like a selfish motive to make the world into a infected blister.

    June 25, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  14. M.A.P.

    No wonder so many people don't take the threat seriously, the extreme amount of time and money that the right wing think tanks have spent trying to convince people that every single scientist on the planet is lying for some unknown conspiracy is ridiculous. Those denialists will be the worst when they realise they were wrong, they will be the looters and the murderers. They all believe in God therefore refuse to take any personal responsability.

    June 25, 2013 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  15. g

    world war three will kill the planet long before climate change .

    June 25, 2013 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  16. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Just two out of every five Americans, 40%, said that global climate change was a major threat to the United States."

    The wording could have been different. Using the word "treat" takes away from the environmental concerns. Even so, count me in as one of the "just two out of every five" Americans who DOES think man made pollution is a threat to the food I eat, the water I drink, and the air I breathe.

    June 25, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  17. Donkey Party

    And as this Independence Day approaches, many Americans don't know who we declared independence from. We have a lot of stupid people in this country, most of them are anti-intellect right-wingers.

    June 25, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  18. Stuffit

    I have to admit I am more concerned about what this inept, incompetent, corrupt administration has done to this economy and my IRA.

    June 25, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  19. Sean M.

    Climate change will be the ultimate end of us and it's rightly deserved. We didn't take care of our planet; we abused it. Now it will abuse us in turn. Humanity is only a second of time in this planets history but in this short time we have changed it to our needs and desires. We have turned the entire planet into a "comfort zone" for humans, with surprisingly little comfort, I might add. We are a temporary illness on this planet, a virus; with our cities and metropolises as giant soars and blisters on the flesh of our planet that can be seen from space; we will be cleansed soon enough. Think of Global Warming as the planets immune system and us the bacteria. If we want to stop global warming, we need to stop with all of our comfort level industry and way of life as a whole. Since the industrial revolution in the 1800's we have become a disease to this planet...

    June 25, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  20. Donkey Party

    Tigas – The government has been spying on people for decades, the IRS also targeted progressive PACs (they were the only ones who DIDN'T receive an exemption), and taxes are at their lowest point in over 60 years, food prices are slightly higher due to drought (climate change), gas prices fluctuate due to speculators (Wall St.) and world market demand, and Obamacare is expected to reduce the deficit. So tell us, why do you right-wingers so blatantly, blindly, and ignorantly ignore facts? If it's to embarrass yourselves, then keep it up, it's working brilliantly.

    June 25, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  21. ST

    Totally ignorance not to believe that climate change exists. Can those who do not believe, ask themselves how hurricanes, tornadoes, too much snow, too dry, too much floods etc. are formed? And why they keep fluctuating all the time? Should the government send everyone back to school, even those who have difficulties to read at the moment? Absurd.

    June 25, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  22. plain&simple

    When one discovers you are doing harm......you usually try to stop!!! So weather or not we as people are causing climate change is not the real concern. If we know we are contributing we should identify what and how then change it!

    June 25, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  23. Sniffit

    Another poll showing America's quest to dumb itself down and go into denial over scientific consensus, all in hopes that it will prove wrong and status quo profiteering can continue, has us lagging pitifully behind the rest of the international community. Yay. Keep it stupid, America.

    June 25, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  24. Rudy NYC


    I have to admit I am more concerned about what this inept, incompetent, corrupt administration has done to this economy and my IRA.
    What are you talking about?

    Your IRA should have improved vastly since Pres. Obama took office in 2009. Most people's IRA's took major hits during the Wall Street collapse under the Bush administration. The economy has also improved from a -7% GDP to one that hovers around 2%, which is a 9 point improvement.

    Corruption? Where is it? How come no one has ever been arrested or charged with anything? Every time there is a Republican in the White House we wind up with arrests and various charges being filed against members of the administration's staff.

    June 25, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  25. Anonymous

    @Data Driven
    Whistling past the graveyard, eh, America? Oh, and I guess the heck with the quality of life for your descendants.

    "I want the world, I want the whole world
    I want to lock it all up in my pocket
    It's my bar of chocolate
    Give it to me now!" – Veruca Salt

    China , Russa , India , Brazil and don;t forget Africa .

    Greed and environmental irresponsibility is not just American.

    June 25, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
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