Two-Thirds of Americans Think Government Should Do More on #Climate — Pew Research #ClimateChange #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

A nursery manager plants a whitebark pine at Glacier National Park in Montana in September 2019, part of an effort to restore vegetation following a wildfire. Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via Pew Research

From Pew Research (Alec Tyson and Brian Kennedy):

A majority of Americans continue to say they see the effects of climate change in their own communities and believe that the federal government falls short in its efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change.

At a time when partisanship colors most views of policy, broad majorities of the public – including more than half of Republicans and overwhelming shares of Democrats – say they would favor a range of initiatives to reduce the impacts of climate change, including large-scale tree planting efforts, tax credits for businesses that capture carbon emissions and tougher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Public concern over climate change has been growing in recent years, particularly among Democrats, and there are no signs that the COVID-19 pandemic has dampened concern levels. A recent Center analysis finds 60% view climate change as a major threat to the well-being of the United States, as high a share taking this view as in any Pew Research Center survey going back to 2009.

The new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted April 29 to May 5 among 10,957 U.S. adults using the Center’s online American Trends Panel, finds a majority of U.S. adults want the government to play a larger role in addressing climate change. About two-thirds (65%) of Americans say the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change – a view that’s about as widely held today as it was last fall.

And public dissatisfaction with government environmental action is not limited solely to climate: Majorities also continue to say the government is doing too little in other areas, such as protecting air and water quality and wildlife.

Consistent with public concerns over climate and the environment, 79% of Americans say the priority for the country’s energy supply should be developing alternative sources of energy, such as wind and solar; far fewer (20%) give priority to expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas. To shift consumption patterns toward renewables, a majority of the public (58%) says government regulations will be necessary to encourage businesses and individuals to rely more on renewable energy; fewer (39%) think the private marketplace will ensure this change in habits.

Partisans remain far apart on several overarching questions about climate change. Much larger shares of Democrats and those who lean toward the Democratic Party than Republicans and Republican leaners say human activity is contributing a great deal to climate change (72% vs. 22%), that it is impacting their own local community (83% to 37%) and that the government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change (89% to 35%).

Despite these differences, there is bipartisan support for several policy options to reduce the effects of climate change. This is especially true when it comes to proposals put forth earlier this year by Republican members of Congress, such as large scale tree-plantings to help absorb carbon emissions and offering tax credits to businesses that capture carbon emissions.

In order to reduce the effects of global climate change, 90% of Americans favor planting about a trillion trees around the world to absorb carbon emissions in the atmosphere, including comparably large shares of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (92%) and Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (88%). President Donald Trump expressed support for tree planting efforts in February during his State of the Union address.

Similarly, 84% of U.S. adults support providing a business tax credit for carbon capture technology that can store carbon emissions before they enter the atmosphere. Large majorities of Democrats (90%) and Republicans (78%) back this proposal, which House Republicans rolled out earlier this year.

Most Americans also support tougher restrictions on power plant emissions (80%), taxing corporations based on the amount of carbon emissions they produce (73%) and tougher fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles and trucks (71%). Partisan divides are wider on these three policies, with Democrats much more supportive than Republicans. Still, about half or more of Republicans say they would favor each of these policies, including 64% who back tougher emission standards for power plants.

While partisanship remains the predominant dividing line in many views of climate and the environment, there are meaningful differences within party coalitions.

In particular, Republicans and Republican leaners who describe their political views as moderate or liberal (roughly a third of all Republicans and leaners) are much more likely than conservative Republicans to see local impacts of climate change, support policies to address it and say the federal government is doing too little in areas of environmental protection. Further, younger generations and women in the GOP tend to be more critical of government action on the environment than their older and male counterparts. Republican women also are more supportive of polices aimed at reducing the impacts of climate change than GOP men.

Differences among Democrats and Democratic leaners are more modest. Strong majorities of both moderate or conservative and liberal Democrats believe the federal government is doing too little to reduce climate change and support a range of policies to address its effects on the environment. There are not meaningful differences in these views among Democrats by either gender or generation.

Americans see local impacts from climate change, but that view is colored more by politics than place

A majority of Americans (63%) say that climate change is affecting their local community a great deal or some. Fewer (37%) say climate change is impacting their own community not too much or not at all. The share who see at least some local impact from climate change is about the same as it was last fall (62%).

Views of the local impact of climate change are largely similar among Americans who live in different regions of the county. In fact, an identical 64% of those who live in the Northeast, South and West say climate change is affecting their community a great deal or some. Those who live in the Midwest are slightly less likely to say this (58%).

Partisanship is a far larger factor in views of the local impact of climate change. A large majority of Democrats (83%) say climate change is affecting their local community a great deal or some. By contrast, far fewer Republicans (37%) believe climate change is affecting their local community at least some; most Republicans (62%) say climate change is impacting their local community not too much or at all.

Among Republicans and Republican leaners, moderates and liberals (55%) are much more likely than conservatives (27%) to say climate change is impacting their community a great deal or some. Among Democrats and Democratic leaners, large shares of both liberals (86%) and conservative and moderates (81%) see local impacts from climate change.

A more granular analysis of geography shows that Americans who live near a coastline are more likely than those who live further away to say climate change is affecting their local community. This pattern holds within both parties but is particularly evident among Republicans.

Seven-in-ten of those who live less than 25 miles from the coastline say climate change is affecting their local community a great deal or some. By comparison, 57% of those who live 300 miles or more from the coastline say climate change is affecting their local community at least some.

Overall, 45% of Republicans who live less than 25 miles from the coastline say climate change is affecting their local community at least some, compared with a significantly smaller share (31%) of Republicans who live 300 or more miles from the coastline.

Roughly eight-in-ten Democrats, no matter where they live, say climate change is affecting their local community at least some. However, Democrats who live close to the coastline are more likely than Democrats who live farthest away from the ocean to say climate change is affecting their local community a great deal (39% vs. 29%).

When those who see a local impact from climate change are asked about the nature of the impact, those who live near a coastline are far more likely (73%) than those who live farther away (45%) to cite rising sea levels that erode beaches and shorelines as a major impact in their community.

Strong majorities of Americans back policies aimed at reducing the effects of climate change

Majorities of U.S. adults favor each of the five proposals to reduce the effects of climate change included in the survey. The most popular, favored by 90% of Americans, is to plant about a trillion trees to absorb carbon emissions. President Trump announced in this year’s State of the Union that the U.S. would join the World Economic Forum’s One Trillion Trees Initiative.

Widespread public support extends to proposals to provide a tax credit to businesses for development of carbon capture and storage capacity (84%) and tougher restrictions on power plant carbon emissions (80%).

About seven-in-ten also favor taxing corporations based on their carbon emissions (73%) and adopting tougher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks (71%).

The Trump administration has taken steps over the past year to roll back regulations on carbon emissions in areas such as fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles and power plants emissions.

Support for these policies aligns with how effective the public thinks they would be. A 2018 survey found majorities of Americans believed restrictions on power plant emissions, tax incentives to encourage businesses to reduce carbon emissions and tougher fuel-efficiency standards for cars would all make a difference at reducing climate change.

Democrats are particularly supportive of policy proposals to reduce the effects of global climate change. Roughly 90% of Democrats favor each of these five policy proposals, and differences among Democrats by ideology tend to be modest. For example, 93% of Democrats, including 96% of liberals and 91% of moderates and conservatives, say they support tougher restrictions on power plant carbon emissions. Differences among Democrats across demographic characteristics such as age and gender also are small.

Among Republicans, there are large gaps in support for some of these policies by ideology, as well as differences in views between GOP men and women.

Moderate and liberal Republicans are broadly supportive of these proposals aimed at reducing the effects of climate change. Two-thirds or more favor each of the five proposals, including 80% who say they support tougher power plant carbon emissions standards.

Among conservative Republicans, 87% support planting more trees to reduce the effects of climate change and 75% favor a tax credit for businesses to develop carbon capture and storage technology. However, their support is significantly lower for other polices: 55% back tougher restrictions on power plant emissions, while fewer than half favor taxing corporations based on their carbon emissions (46%) or tougher fuel efficiency standards for cars (44%).

Most Republican men and women support tree-planting efforts and offering a tax credit to businesses for carbon capture technology. But GOP women are significantly more likely than men to favor tougher emissions restrictions on power plants, taxing corporations based on their emissions and tougher fuel-efficiency standards for cars.

Political groups continue to differ over role human activity plays in climate change

Most U.S. adults think human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels, contributes a great deal (49%) or some (32%) to climate change. About two-in-ten (19%) say human activity contributes not too much or not at all to climate change. Views on this question are about the same as they were last fall.

Americans continue to be deeply politically divided over how much human activity contributes to climate change. About seven-in-ten Democrats (72%) say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change, compared with roughly two-in-ten Republicans (22%), a difference of 50 percentage points.

The difference is even wider among those at the ends of the ideological spectrum. A large majority of liberal Democrats (85%) say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change. Only 14% of conservative Republicans say the same – 45% of this group says human activity contributes not too much or not at all to climate change.

Views about the role of human activity in climate change also vary by education among Democrats, but not among Republicans. Democrats who have graduated from college are more likely to say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change than Democrats without a college degree. For example, 86% of Democrats with a postgraduate degree say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change, compared with a smaller majority (58%) of Democrats with no college experience. Among Republicans, comparably small shares across level of education see human activity as contributing a great deal to climate change.

Previous Pew Research Center analyses have found a similar dynamic in views of climate change by level of science knowledge, based on an 11-item index. Among Democrats, those with higher levels of science knowledge are more likely to say human activity influences climate change a great deal than those with lower levels of science knowledge. By contrast, there is no such relationship among Republicans.

There also are significant differences in these views among Democrats by race and ethnicity. Overall, 80% of white Democrats and 70% of Hispanic Democrats say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change. By contrast, black Democrats are much less likely to take this view: 49% believe human activity contributes a great deal to climate change.

Majorities of both Democrats and Republicans prioritize alternative energy over fossil fuel sources

Reducing reliance on carbon-based fuels is viewed by climate advocates as a critical step to preventing the worst impacts of climate change. The survey finds a broad majority of Americans (79%) say the more important priority for the country is to develop alternative sources, such as wind and solar; far fewer (20%) say the more important energy priority is to expand the production of oil, coal and natural gas. Views on this question are about the same as they were in October 2019, the first time the measure was asked on Pew Research Center’s online American Trends Panel.

An overwhelming majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (91%) say that developing alternative sources should be the nation’s energy priority. A smaller majority of Republicans and Republican leaners (65%) also takes this view.

Among moderate and liberal Republicans, a large share (81%) say developing alternative sources should be the nation’s energy priority. The views of moderate and liberal Republicans are relatively close to those of Democrats: 88% of moderate and conservative Democrats and a near-unanimous 97% of liberal Democrats say the more important energy priority is developing alternative sources. By contrast, conservative Republicans are much more divided in their views: A narrow majority (54%) gives greater priority to developing alternative energy sources, while 45% say the priority should be expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas.

Partisans hold opposing views on this question: 77% of Democrats, including those who lean to the Democratic Party, believe that government regulations are necessary to shift the country toward reliance on renewable energy, while 61% of Republicans and Republican leaners say the private marketplace will be enough.

Views on this question, and opinion dynamics among partisans, are comparable to what they were when the question was last asked in 2018.

Americans’ overall preference to prioritize alternative energy is reflected in views of specific energy source development.

Large shares say they would favor developing more solar panel farms (90%) and more wind turbine farms (83%).

There is far less support for expanding fossil fuel energy sources. Majorities oppose expanding coal mining (65%), hydraulic fracturing (60%) and offshore oil and gas drilling (58%).

A narrow majority of the public (55%) opposes more nuclear power plants in the country, while 43% are in favor. Larger shares of women than men oppose expanding nuclear power, a pattern that’s seen among both Republicans and Democrats and is consistent with views about nuclear power in past Center surveys.

Public views on which energy sources the country should expand have been stable in recent years, and opinions are very similar to those measured in 2018 and 2019 surveys.

There is bipartisan support for expanding solar and wind power, though somewhat smaller majorities of conservative Republicans back these two policies.

By contrast, Republicans – especially conservative Republicans – are more supportive than Democrats of expanding fossil fuel energy sources and nuclear power.

Majorities of conservative Republicans favor expanding offshore drilling (72%), hydraulic fracturing (65%) and coal mining (63%). By contrast, about half or fewer of moderate and liberal Republicans favor expanding these forms of energy development. Democrats broadly oppose these methods, and opposition is particularly widespread among liberal Democrats.

Differences in views of energy development by partisanship are about the same as they have been in recent years. See Appendix for details.

Consistent with past Pew Research Center surveys, younger Republicans give more priority to alternative energy development – and are less supportive of expanding fossil fuel sources – than older Republicans.

Overall, 79% of Millennial and Gen Z Republicans prioritize the development of alternative energy sources, compared with 66% of Gen X Republicans and 55% of Republicans who are Baby Boomers or older. While Republicans generally are skeptical about the need for government to encourage public reliance on renewable sources, about half 0f Millennial and Gen Z Republicans (48%) think government regulations are necessary; smaller shares of older Republicans say this.

Millennial and younger Republicans are less supportive of expanding the use of offshore oil and gas drilling, coal mining or hydraulic fracturing than Baby Boomer and older Republicans. There’s a similar, but smaller, generational dynamic among Republicans in views of expanding nuclear power.

Among Republicans, there is broad support across generations for expanding solar and wind farms, though support is somewhat higher among Millennial and Gen Z than older Republicans. (At this point, Gen Z adults hold views on a range of issues – including the role of government, diversity and climate and energy – that are similar to those of Millennials.)

Majorities of U.S. adults say federal government is not doing enough on the environment

Majorities of Americans continue to say the federal government is doing too little to protect key aspects of the environment. About two-thirds of Americans say the federal government is doing too little to protect water quality of rivers, lakes and streams (67%), protect air quality (65%) and reduce the effects of climate change (65%). About six-in-ten think the federal government is doing too little to protect animals and their habitats (62%), and a slightly smaller majority say the federal government is doing too little to protect open lands in national parks (54%).

These findings come amid a changing federal regulatory landscape. The Trump administration is reversing or seeking to change more than 100 rules and regulations related to carbon dioxide emissions, clean air, water or toxic chemicals.

Public views on how much the federal government is doing to protect key aspects of the environment are virtually unchanged in the last two years. In Pew Research Center surveys in both 2018 and 2019, about two-thirds of Americans said the federal government was doing too little to protect air or water quality or reduce the effects of climate change.

Over the past several years, Americans have become significantly more likely to say protecting the environment and addressing climate change should be top priorities for the president and Congress, according to a 2020 Pew Research Center survey.

Democrats remain far more likely than Republicans to say the government is doing too little to address aspects of the environment. For instance, about nine-in-ten liberal Democrats say the federal government is doing too little to protect air quality (93%) or water quality (91%). By comparison, among conservative Republicans, just 36% say the federal government is doing too little to protect water quality and only 28% say this about air quality. Majorities of conservative Republicans say the federal government is doing the right amount in these areas.

Moderate and liberal Republicans are more critical of government action on the environment than conservative Republicans. Narrow majorities say the government is doing too little to protect water and air quality, wildlife and their habit and to reduce the effects of climate change. Ideological gaps among Democrats are more modest than among Republicans. See Appendix for details.

Among Republicans, women and younger adults are more likely to say the government is doing too little to address aspects of the environment than men and older adults in the GOP.

About half of Republican women (51%) say the government is doing too little to protect water quality, compared with 39% of Republican men. There’s a similar gap in views that government is doing too little to protect air quality (47% to 32%), and Republican women also are significantly more likely than men to say the government is doing too little in the three other environmental areas included in the survey.

Millennial and younger Republicans are at least 10 points more likely than Baby Boomer and older Republicans to say the federal government is doing too little in each of the five areas measured in the survey. For example, 53% of Millennial and younger Republicans say the federal government is doing too little to protect air quality, compared with just 30% of Baby Boomer and older Republicans.

Among Democrats, there are hardly any gaps in views on these questions by generation or gender. (See appendix for more details).

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