By Karen Whisler
President Trump recently announced to a Rose Garden audience his plans to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. In his statement, he framed a withdrawal from the Paris Agreement as “keeping the promises [he] made to the American people during [his] campaign for president”. But this decision is out of step with the views of the public. According to a number of surveys conducted over the past year, a majority of Americans support US participation in the agreement.
A November 2016 poll by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication showed that nearly seven in ten registered voters (69%) support the US participating in the agreement. The 2016 Chicago Council Survey, conducted June 10 to 27, 2016, found a similarly high level of support, with 71 percent of Americans backing US participation. Both polls also showed bipartisan support, with majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents indicating that they would prefer the country to remain a party to the agreement.
Nor is this the prevalent view among Trump’s base on this issue. Among Trump voters, nearly twice as many (47%) support US participation in Paris as oppose it (28%). And in the 2016 Chicago Council Survey, a majority of Trump’s core supporters—those who preferred Trump over all other primary candidates—supported participation (57%).
This support for the Paris Agreement follows a larger trend of public recognition of the effects of global warming and a desire to combat some of these changes. According to a CBS News Poll in April 2017, six in ten Americans (57%) believe that the condition of the environment will be worse for the next generation; only 12 percent believe it will be better. Moreover, a majority of Americans (53%) agree that global warming is caused by “mostly human activity”, an increase from the 46 percent who believed the same three years ago. This mirrors findings from the 2016 Chicago Council Survey, which found an increasing proportion of Americans saying that climate change is a serious and pressing problem, and that we should begin taking steps now even if it involves significant costs.
However, there are still divisions along party lines as to what the government’s role in environmental regulation should be. Weighed against concerns for the economy, the same CBS poll shows that 70 percent of Republicans indicated that lifting environmental regulations would be a good thing to spark job growth; only 14 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Independents felt the same. Instead, a majority of Democrats (78%) believe that the Trump administration is not doing enough to protect the environment, while 65 percent of Republicans think he’s doing “about the right amount” according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted in May, 2017.
Karen Whisler is a Public Opinion research intern at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. She studies economics and international relations at the University of Pennsylvania.