According to Pew’s latest public opinion poll, centered on Roman Catholics in advance of Pope Francis’ encyclical (teaching) about the environment’s effect on the poor, the views of American Catholics on climate change mostly track those of non-Catholics. Meanwhile, although concern about climate change fell sometime after 2008, the Pew data shows that more Americans now agree with the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and is caused by human activity.
As New York Times’ David Leonhardt points out, “skepticism about climate change remains high among nearly any demographic group that leans Republican, including men, whites, evangelicals and people over age 50, according to the Pew data. The main reason is that so many Republicans themselves are skeptical that the planet has become hotter and are opposed to new climate policies.” The Pew researchers explain that when party control shifted in 2009, the energy debate also shifted, contributing to changes in opinion and increasing political polarization.
Why not leverage Pope Francis’ voice to raise the bar for conversation about climate impacts and engagement around solutions within your own communities? The Pew findings highlight the importance of aligning climate messages to constituents’ worldviews, and channeling the power of groups to mobilize action. For deeper insights about how religious and non-religious Americans think about a variety of climate and energy solutions – and how local leaders can translate these findings into action and engagement within your own communities – check out ecoAmerica’s American Climate Values 2014 Supplement: Faith and Climate Highlights.
The financial crisis made Americans less worried aboutclimate change. The Democrats’ attempt to pass sweeping climate legislation in 2009 and 2010 probably reduced Americans’ anxiety level as well, as paradoxical as that may sound. But now Americans are getting more worried again.
About 69 percent of adults say that global warming is either a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem, according to a new Pew Research Center poll, up from 63 percent in 2010. The level of concern has still not returned to that of a decade ago; in 2006, 79 percent of adults called global warming serious.
It’s impossible to know exactly why concern about the climate fell — and why skepticism that global warming was real increased — starting around 2008. Both economics and politics probably play a role. The financial crisis and recession made Americans more worried about the immediate condition of the economy, rather than about the long-term condition of the planet.
And President Obama’s election, combined with an attempt by many Democrats to pass a climate bill, apparently caused many Republican-leaning voters to become more hostile to new climate policies. Such polarization is common across many issues, political scientists note. “As party control shifted” in 2009, note Jessica Martinez, Greg Smith and Jocelyn Kiley of Pew, “the debate about energy also shifted, and could have contributed to changes in opinion over all.”