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Politics

Americans Overwhelmingly Want U.S. to Do More on Climate Change, Heatmap Poll Finds

Heatmap’s inaugural survey finds broad support for climate action.

The aftermath of a wildfire.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Americans are increasingly feeling the effects of climate change and overwhelmingly believe the United States needs to do more to address the issue, the inaugural Heatmap Climate Poll found.

Conducted in late February by Benenson Strategy Group, the poll arrives during a moment of heightened media attention to climate change. Earlier this week, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its synthesis report, which emphasizes the dangers posed by global warming as well as the need for governments to act swiftly and decisively. In the U.S., the implementation of President Biden's landmark climate law, the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, is well underway.

Overall, nearly three-quarters of all Americans say it is important for the United States to mitigate the effects of climate change, including 89% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans.

A plurality of Americans (47%) said they are feeling increasingly pessimistic about climate change, versus 28% who said they were increasingly optimistic and 24% who said it had no effect on them.

Half of Americans also attest to having been personally impacted by climate change, with 35% saying an immediate family member has experienced a serious climate-related event like a hurricane, tornado, blizzard, or flash flood that resulted in either personal harm or property damage.

“In more than two decades of polling Americans’ attitudes on a wide range of issues, including climate change, I have rarely seen such unequivocal support for action now by the U.S. government, to lead on mitigating the harmful effects of climate change on our planet,” says Joel Benenson, founder and CEO of Benenson Strategy Group. “Our survey shows that Americans want their politicians to do more, but fear they lack the will that is so urgently needed as people here at home and all over the world are increasingly impacted by extreme climate events.”

Indeed, Americans seem to have given up on government’s ability to make a difference. A plurality believes that individuals will have a greater positive effect on climate change in the near future than companies or the federal government.

Americans want corporations to do more but are skeptical of their motivations. Sixty-seven percent feel it is important for large corporations to mitigate the effects of climate change, but almost as many (64%) think their pledges to do so are just for appearances. Many also identify the sway that big corporations, lobbyists, and special interest groups have in Washington to be among the most significant obstacles to achieving renewable and sustainable solutions.

Americans were also largely in the dark about the details of the Inflation Reduction Act. Sixty-three percent reported knowing not much or nothing about the bill.

Americans reported varying degrees of interest in sustainability. Eighty percent acknowledged that sustainable consumer choices often involve some level of personal sacrifice; a surprisingly significant 27% of Americans either eat no meat (10%) or would like to stop eating meat in the future (17%). Almost half of Americans say they want to one day power their homes with solar panels (46%).

Interest in electric vehicles was also high. Nearly half of the respondents either currently drive an electric vehicle (8%) or would like to do so in the future (39%). Despite high levels of general interest, though, close to one in two Americans (45%) were unaware that the Inflation Reduction Act includes a provision to give up to $7,500 in consumer credit for the purchase of qualified vehicles.

The debate over how to proceed with Russia is dividing Americans. About half (52%) believe sanctions should remain in place as an effective way of punishing Moscow and limiting its ability to wage war in Ukraine, even if it means families ultimately pay more for energy in the U.S. The remaining respondents (48%) said sanctions should be lifted to reduce energy costs for American families. Separately, a plurality of respondents described the rising cost of living for families year after year as “an extremely serious problem" for climate change mitigation.

In the coming days and weeks, Heatmap will offer further analysis of the survey's results, including closer looks at the challenges of decarbonization, interest in electric vehicles, the hopes for individual action, and the toll of climate change on mental health.

The Heatmap Climate Poll of 1,000 American adults was conducted by Benenson Strategy Group via online panels from Feb. 15 to 20, 2023. The survey included interviews with Americans in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.02 percentage points. You can download the topline results below:

Download full Heatmap Climate Poll topline.

Green
Jeva Lange profile image

Jeva Lange

Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City.

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