Does the American Public Support Legislation to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Drawing upon national survey data, the Stanford University study explores whether public attitudes toward consumption and supply side policies discourage movement toward “a new energy economy.”


There’s a general myth that the public doesn’t support legislation to limit greenhouse gases, which is why members of Congress are unwilling to take the issue on. This research, looking at data from surveys between 2006-2013 shows a majority of Americans do want legislative action on climate change.


The data for this survey is available in several formats – a pdf paper and YouTube presentation as well as state by state maps or question by question maps.

The major takeaway from the research is that there’s no separation between so-called ‘Red States’ and ‘Blue States’ believing in climate change or wanting action on climate change. The overwhelming majority (75% or higher) of people in all states in the USA believe climate change is already happening, and only in Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Utah did the number wanting action on climate change drop below 50% of respondents.

The research was conducted by Jon Krosnick, a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and Bo MacInnes, a Visiting Scholar at Stanford. Professor Krosnick said ‘the consistency of findings across states was surprising to me’.

Percentage of Americans who believe global warming has been happening

The research shows that Americans are not yet feeling climate change on their doorstep, with no more than 16% of states saying global warming was important for them personally, even in areas affected by climate extremes like Florida, New Jersey and Texas.

Percentage of Americans for whom the issue of global warming is extremely important personally

However, more than half of all Americans recognize that global warming is caused by human carbon pollution – even in states where climate denial campaigns are very well resourced.

Percentage of Americans who believe past global warming has been caused by humans

The research authors said there was a belief among legislators in Washington that constituents would not support action on climate change, but when questioned, those impressions were formed anecdotally from phone calls and correspondence to their offices. This research shows there is an appetite for limiting greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, regardless of what other countries do and gives legislators the data to prove it. 

Date: 2013
Organization: Stanford University
Strategic Approach: Audiences, Other
Organization: Stanford University
Strategic Approach: Audiences, Other

Related resources

Related Resources