Published December 17, 2009
While a majority of Americans believe global warming is happening, far fewer see it as a crisis.
A Fox News poll released Wednesday finds that a 63 percent majority of Americans say they believe in global warming, down from 69 percent earlier this year, and from a high of 82 percent in 2007.
Just over half of Americans (51 percent) believe in "man-made" global warming, that is, believe it is caused by human behavior (33 percent), or by both people and climate patterns (18 percent).
Less than a third (29 percent) believe global warming is caused naturally (11 percent climate patterns and 18 percent both human behavior and climate patterns).
Among groups, women (58 percent) are somewhat more likely than men (50 percent), and young people under age 30 (59 percent) are more likely than seniors 65 and over (50 percent), to believe in man-made global warming. Democrats (78 percent) are more than twice as likely as Republicans (32 percent) and significantly more likely than independents (54 percent) to believe it exists.
The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from December 8 to December 9. For the total sample, the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The poll was conducted for an upcoming Bret Baier special, "Fox News Reporting: Global Warming...Or Hot Air?" that airs Sunday, December 20 at 9 PM ET.
Just how bad is the threat from global warming? About one in six Americans (17 percent) think the global warming situation is a crisis, which is essentially the same number who thought so when the question was asked last in 2005. One-third (33 percent) currently think the situation is best described as a "major problem, but not a crisis," down 11 percentage points from 44 percent previously (October 2005).
Nearly half of Americans think global warming is either a "minor problem" (25 percent) or "not a problem at all" (23 percent). Furthermore, the 23 percent who think global warming is "not a problem at all" is up 11 percentage points from 12 percent in October 2005.
Democrats (29 percent) are almost six times more likely than Republicans (5 percent) to call the global warming situation a crisis, while Southerners (14 percent) are 10 points less likely than those living in the West (24 percent) to do so.
When asked who "thoroughly understands the science behind global warming," the poll finds most Americans (79 percent) think scientists who study the climate understand it. That's significantly more than the number who think journalists who report on global warming (37 percent) or elected officials (25 percent) have a good understanding of the issue.
What about the public? Most Americans think they themselves are knowledgeable, yet not necessarily their neighbors. Just over half (52 percent) say they personally understand the science — nearly three times as many as think "everyday Americans" do (18 percent).
Americans put addressing the issue of global warming at the bottom of the national to-do list. When asked about the most important issues for the government to be working on right now, fixing the economy (27 percent) and creating jobs (26 percent) are the two top items — far outdistancing all others.
The remaining issues — including health care — are bunched together with much less support: reforming health care (10 percent), handling Iraq and Afghanistan (8 percent), reducing the deficit (7 percent) and cutting taxes (6 percent). Addressing global warming comes last among these issues at 2 percent.
Finally, views are split evenly on how to describe the global warming movement: 41 percent of Americans think it is a group of "truly concerned citizens" who see global warming as posing an immediate danger and the same number think the movement is made up of people who see an "opportunity to gain political power and make money."