November 21, 2016

Should Trump Dump Climate? US Public Opinion on Climate Change Action

By Kelhan Martin, Research Intern

Although President-elect Donald Trump has threatened to dump the Paris Agreement on climate change, calling it a “bad deal,” the 2016 Chicago Council Survey finds strong bipartisan support for US participation. Overall, seven in ten Americans (71%) believe that the United States should participate in the agreement, including majorities of Republicans (57%), Democrats (87%), and Independents (68%). 

The United States is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Over the past six years, Council survey data has shown increasing support from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents for measures aimed to mitigate climate change. When presented with three options to best address climate change, four in ten Americans overall (41%) say climate change is a serious and pressing problem and we should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs. This reading has increased twelve percentage points from 2010 when three in ten (29%) said the same. Simultaneously, the percentage of respondents who say that until we are sure that climate change is really a problem, we should not take any steps that would have economic costs, has decreased from 26 percent in 2010 to 19 percent in 2016.

Despite an increase in nonpartisan support for climate mitigating measures, the two major parties are still far from agreeing about how big a threat climate change poses and how urgently it should be addressed. Overall, four in ten (39%) Americans say climate change is a critical threat to the United States. While a majority of Democrats (57%) agree, only 18 percent of Republicans concur. Similarly, partisans disagree about the prioritization of dealing with the issue. Majorities of Democrats say that limiting climate change (59%) and the connected issue of improving the world’s environment (63%) are very important goals for the United States, while just 19 and 29 percent of Republicans say the same respectively.

To read more about American’s perceptions on climate change action, read the report.

About

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

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