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Climate Concerns on the Rise

Running Numbers by Dina Smeltz and Craig Kafura
A wide shot of all participants of COP21, standing together

In the United States, Democrats and Republicans remain at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of prioritizing climate change.

The COP21 talks continue in Paris this week, aiming to negotiate an international agreement on climate change. While Democrats and Republicans are at opposite ends of the spectrum in prioritizing climate change, Chicago Council Surveys going back to 2002 have shown longstanding public support for an international treaty to address the problem. And while still a minority, an increasing percentage of Americans support taking immediate action on climate change. 

Bar graph showing partisan opinion of various climate issues

Nearly four in ten Americans (37%), an increase of eight percentage points since 2010, say that climate change is a serious and pressing problem and that we should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs. Both Democrats and Independents have become more likely to support immediate action on climate change over the past five years. In 2010, only a plurality (49%) of Democrats favored immediate action on climate change; today, a majority (56%) believe we should. Independents have seen an even bigger shift: today, four in ten (40%) support taking steps on climate change now, up from only two in ten (23%) in 2010. Most Republicans remain split over whether the problem of climate change should be dealt with gradually (43%), or whether climate change is really a problem (44%)—a position shared by few Democrats (13%) and Independents (22%). 

For more details on American public opinion and climate change, read the Chicago Council Survey brief, Slight Rise in US Public Concerns about Climate.

About the Authors
Senior Fellow, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Headshot for Dina Smeltz
Dina Smeltz, a polling expert, has more than 25 years of experience designing and fielding international social and political surveys. Prior to joining the Council to lead its annual survey of American attitudes on US foreign policy, she served in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the US State Department's Office of Research from 1992 to 2008.
Headshot for Dina Smeltz
Assistant Director, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Council expert Craig Kafura
Craig Kafura is the assistant director for public opinion and foreign policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project, and a Pacific Forum Young Leader. At the Council, he coordinates work on public opinion and foreign policy and is a regular contributor to the public opinion and foreign policy blog Running Numbers.
Council expert Craig Kafura