Speaking Out on Global Warming: Public Attitudes toward the Papal Encyclical on Climate Change

In collaboration with the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conducted a national survey of 1,030 adults on their views about the pope’s stand on global warming.

One month after release of the papal encyclical on climate change, a new poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and researchers at Yale University finds that fewer than 1 in 3 Americans, and 40 percent of Catholics, are aware of Pope Francis’s efforts to emphasize global warming as a priority issue for the Catholic Church.

Among those Americans who have attended religious services in the month after the encyclical’s release, just 22 percent report hearing about it from their service leader. Catholics who attended services are three times as likely as other Christians to have heard about the encyclical at a religious service (37 percent vs. 12 percent).

Despite relatively low awareness of the papal encyclical, a majority of Americans say it is appropriate for the pope to take a public position on the issue of global warming. This is true even though very few Americans currently consider global warming a religious, social justice, or poverty issue.

The nationwide poll was conducted July 17 to 19, 2015, using the AmeriSpeak Omnibus, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,030 adults.

Three Things You Should Know
From the Yale–AP-NORC Center’s Poll on the Papal Encyclical on Global Warming
Among all American Adults:

  1. Few Americans, just 31 percent, have heard about Pope Francis’s encyclical on global warming.
  2. Most Americans say they think it’s appropriate for the pope to take a public stand on global warming despite few viewing it as a religious issue. 
  3. Catholics mirror non-Catholic Americans in their attitudes about whether global warming is happening and their views about the appropriateness of the pope’s recent encyclical.