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The Politics of Climate Change

An AP-NORC poll conducted in August 2019 looks at climate change beliefs - does it exist, who is responsible, and who should fix it.

​While Americans, regardless of party identification, agree that climate change is happening, Republicans and Democrats disagree on its causes. Democrats are strongly in favor of funding research into renewable sources of energy, and most Republicans agree. But while most Democrats see little advantage to carbon-based fuels, Republicans are more positive.

Seventy-six percent of Americans think climate change is a reality, 9% say it is not happening, and 15% are not sure. Most Democrats say human activity is at least mostly responsible for climate change, while Republicans are more inclined to say that natural changes has some responsibility.

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Question: Do you think climate change is happening, do you think climate change is not happening, or aren’t you sure? / Do you think climate change is caused entirely by human activities, caused mostly by human activities, caused about equally by human activities and natural changes in the environment, caused mostly by natural changes in the environment, or caused entirely by natural changes in the environment?

Source: AP NORC poll conducted August 15-19, 2019 with 1,058 adults nationwide.

The 9% of Americans who do not think climate change is happening offer a number of reasons for their skepticism, including distrust of the scientific evidence (55%), belief that the problem is being exaggerated (53%) or is a hoax (35%), or deny that human activity has caused the problem (34%).

President Donald Trump continues to get high marks from Republicans for his management of the issue. Sixty-six percent of Republicans approve of the president’s handling of climate change; only 7% of Democrats and 29% of independents agree. These figures are nearly identical to the AP-NORC survey conducted September 2017. Republicans also are much more approving of Trump’s energy policy, compared with Democrats or independents.

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Question: Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling …?

Source: AP NORC poll conducted August 15-19, 2019 with 1,058 adults nationwide.

Corporations and industry, the federal government, and other developed countries are most commonly cited as being responsible for addressing climate change. Less than half of Americans say local government or developing nations have a great deal or a lot of responsibility to tackle the problem.

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Question: How much responsibility does each of the following have for addressing climate change?

Source: AP NORC poll conducted August 15-19, 2019 with 1,058 adults nationwide.

Seventy-seven percent would like to see the government finance research into renewable energy sources. Nearly half (46%) would like to see Washington increase subsidies to companies that produce renewal energy. There is little support for expanding offshore drilling (32%) or more extensive fracking (22%) for oil and natural gas. Only 7% want the federal government to give more subsidies to companies that produce carbon-based energy. 

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Question: Generally speaking, do you favor, oppose, or neither favor nor oppose each of the following government policies?

Source: AP NORC poll conducted August 15-19, 2019 with 1,058 adults nationwide.

While 66% support regulating the levels of carbon dioxide released by manufacturing, only 37% favor the idea of a carbon tax. There is more support (43%) for a carbon tax if the revenue provides a tax rebate.

Most Americans say there are more advantages to renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, and hydropower. While 40% think natural gas has more advantages, fewer see advantages in the other fossil fuels—oil (20%) or coal (16%). Democrats are strongly in favor of renewable sources of energy, and most Republicans agree. But while most Democrats see little advantage to carbon-based fuels, Republicans are more positive. 

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Question: Thinking about the use of each of the following energy sources, would you say there are more advantages, more disadvantages, about as many advantages as disadvantages, or don't you know enough to say?

Source: AP NORC poll conducted August 15-19, 2019 with 1,058 adults nationwide.

Climate scientists are a source of accurate information about climate science according to 55% of Americans. Only 14% say the news media provide reliable information about climate, and 12% consider the Trump administration an accurate source about climate science. As with other aspects of climate change, there are partisan differences.

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Question: How much do you trust each of the following sources to provide accurate information about climate science?

Source: AP NORC poll conducted August 15-19, 2019 with 1,058 adults nationwide.

The nationwide poll was conducted August 15-19, 2019, using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,058 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points for all respondents. The margin of sampling may be higher for subgroups.