Climate Change in the American Mind: Public Support for Climate & Energy Policies in March 2012

A public opinion survey finds that majorities of Americans think global warming and clean energy should be national priorities and that elected officials, corporations and citizens could be doing more to support climate and energy policies.  

Conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication in March 2012, the nationally representative survey is part of the Climate Change in the American Mind series.


The survey provides a snapshot of how Americans perceive global warming in terms of priority level, necessary action, and specific climate and energy policies.


Americans think global warming and clean energy should be a priority for the president and Congress.

  • 92% think that developing sources of clean energy should be a (very high, high, or medium) priority.
  • 83% think that protecting the environment either improves economic growth or provides new jobs.
  • 72% think global warming should be a (very high, high or medium) priority.

Americans think corporations, industry, citizens, Congress, and the president should be doing more to address global warming.

  • 70% think corporations and industry should be doing more.
  • 67% think citizens should be doing more.
  • 58% say Congress should be doing more.
  • 54% say President Obama should be doing more.

Americans support a variety of climate and energy policies.

  • 79% support renewable energy research.
  • 76% support tax rebates for fuel-efficient vehicles or solar panels.
  • 75% support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant.
  • 68% say the U.S. should make either a large or medium-scale effort to reduce global warming.
  • 65% support an international treaty requiring the US to cut C02 90% by 2050.
  • 63% support requiring utilities to produce 20% of their electricity from renewable energy sources.
  • 63% say the US should reduce greenhouse gases regardless of other nations.
  • 62% support expanded offshore drilling.
  • 61% support holding the fossil fuel industry responsible for hidden costs.
  • 55% say that global warming will be an important issue in determining their presidential vote.
  • 54% oppose ending federal subsidies for all forms of energy.
  • 50% have heard about Keystone XL. Of those who've heard of it, 69% support building the pipeline.

The largest partisan differences were around fossil fuel extraction, reducing C02 emissions, and prioritizing global warming.

  • Republicans were more likely to support the Keystone XL pipeline and offshore drilling.
  • Democrats were more likely to say that the US should cut emissions and prioritize climate policies.
  • Republicans and Democrats were more closely aligned around issues of making clean energy a priority and holding the fossil fuel industry responsible for "hidden costs" of their products.


Photo via (cc) Flickr user ttarasiuk

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