Yet while Democrats have grown ever more alarmed by climate change, self-identified Republicans remain largely unmoved. In the poll, Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to say climate change is one of their top two issues, and they support more aggressive policies. This reflects a deepening divide among Americans: Climate change, Leiserowitz said, “has become more polarized now than any other issue, including abortion.”
Read: A very important climate fact that no one knows
The Climate Nexus poll was conducted online from February 6 to February 9, among 1,934 respondents in 26 states. Each of those states—they include Nevada, South Carolina, California, and Texas—will hold a Democratic primary or caucus between now and March 17. Climate Nexus then weighted the responses from each state in line with Census Bureau estimates of local age, gender, race, education, and Hispanic demographics. In addition to the Yale team, Climate Nexus partnered with the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication for the poll.
The poll’s results fit into a remarkably consistent pattern: American voters are taking climate change seriously. Last March, a CNN/Des Moines Register poll found that climate change was a top-two issue for Iowa Democrats. Since then, the same results have kept showing up in opinion surveys, exit polls, and Associated Press vote-cast data, Leiserowitz said.
Earlier this week, the Pew Research Center announced that a majority of Americans now say dealing with climate change should be a top priority for the president and Congress. Since 2016, that number has increased by 14 percentage points. And in another all-time high, nearly as many Americans (64 percent) now rank protecting the environment as highly as they do strengthening the economy, the Pew report found.
Some of this effect may reflect President Trump’s broad rejection of climate policy and embrace of fossil fuels. It is common for public polling to swing in the opposite direction of the incumbent president’s policy views, a phenomenon that political scientists call “thermostatic public opinion.”
And while the polling shows that concern about climate change is growing, it also reveals that views are divided by party. “Over the past five years, public concern about climate change has soared, particularly among Democrats. It’s also gone up substantially among independents, but it’s stayed relatively flat among Republicans,” Leiserowitz said. Last month, a separate study from the Yale and George Mason University teams found that ideology and partisan affiliation still strongly predict a voter’s views on the climate. While more than 70 percent of Democrats say that global warming is caused by human activities, only a slim majority (51 percent) of moderate Republicans agree, as do only 25 percent of self-described conservative Republicans.