Two-thirds of Americans think government should do more on climate
A majority of Americans (63%) continue to say they see the effects of climate change in their own communities, and 65% believe that the federal government is doing too little to reduce the impacts of climate change, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
At a time when partisanship colors most views of policy, broad majorities of the public—including more than half of Republicans and overwhelming shares of Democrats—say they would favor a range of initiatives to reduce the impacts of climate change, including large-scale tree planting efforts (90%), tax credits for businesses that capture carbon emissions (84%) and tougher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles (71%.)
The new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted April 29 to May 5, 2020 among 10,957 U.S. adults using the Center's online American Trends Panel, finds that partisans remain far apart on several overarching questions about climate change. Much larger shares of Democrats than Republicans say human activity is contributing a great deal to climate change (72% vs. 22%), that it is impacting their own local community (83% to 37%) and that the government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change (89% to 35%).
However, there is bipartisan support for several policy options to reduce the effects of climate change. Large shares of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (92%) and Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (88%) favor planting about a trillion trees around the world to absorb carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Majorities of Democrats and Republicans also support providing a business tax credit for carbon capture technology that can store carbon emissions before they enter the atmosphere (90% and 78%, respectively). Partisan divides are wider on policies related to tougher restrictions on power plant emissions, taxing corporations based on the amount of carbon emissions they produce and tougher fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles and trucks. Still, about half or more Republicans say they would favor each of these policies, including 64% who back tougher emission standards for power plants.
While partisanship remains the predominant dividing line in many views of climate and the environment, there are meaningful differences within party coalitions. In particular, Republicans and Republican leaners who describe their political views as moderate or liberal (roughly a third of all Republicans and leaners) are much more likely than conservative Republicans to see local impacts of climate change, support policies to address it and say the federal government is doing too little in areas of environmental protection. Further, younger generations and women in the GOP tend to be more critical of government action on the environment than their older and male counterparts. Republican women also are more supportive of polices aimed at reducing the impacts of climate change than GOP men.
Other key findings include:
- Majorities of both Democrats and Republicans prioritize alternative over fossil fuel energy sources. A broad majority of Americans (79%) say the more important priority for the country is to develop alternative sources, such as wind and solar, over expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas, including 91% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans.
- There is broad support for developing more solar and wind energy. Large shares say they would favor developing more solar panel farms (90%) and more wind turbine farms (83%). There is far less support for expanding fossil fuel energy sources. Majorities oppose expanding coal mining (65%), hydraulic fracturing (60%) and offshore oil and gas drilling (58%).
- Those living near the coast are most likely to say climate change is affecting their local community. Seven-in-ten Americans who live less than 25 miles from the coastline say climate change is affecting their local community a great deal or some. By comparison, 57% of those who live 300 miles or more from the coastline say climate change is affecting their local community at least some.