Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans’ Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in November 2011

Researchers at Yale and George Mason University have found that Americans are making the connection between extreme weather and climate change.

The survey, fielded in November 2011 examined public opinion on extreme weather, trust in messengers, issue understanding, and levels of concern. The national survey revealed the following:

  • A majority of Americans said that global warming is affecting the weather and that weather patterns have been worse over the past few years. 

  • The weather events that Americans most frequently linked with global warming were: record high summer temperatures, the Texas and Oklahoma drought, and the Mississippi River floods.

  • Compared with their May 2011 survey and following the summer heat waves, Americans were more likely to say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming and agree that it is indeed occurring. Americans were also less likely to question the existence of global warming in the face of record snowstorms. 

  • A majority of Americans understand that global warming is happening, and half say that it is mostly a result of human activities. Additionally, more than half of Americans are worried about global warming and feel that the issue is of personal importance.

  • Americans tend to trust scientists (climate and other), public health departments, TV weather reporters and primary care doctors as sources of information about global warming. Americans are less trusting of mainstream news media and politicians.

  • Few Americans recognize that there is scientific consensus on global warming.

  • A majority Americans also said that the economy should not prevent us from acting to reduce global warming (an increase from May 2011).


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