Republicans and Democrats in Different Worlds on Climate Change
As President Biden heads to the UN Climate Change Conference, he will grapple with significant divides in domestic public opinion.
On October 31, world leaders and climate experts will gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26. These meetings represent a much-anticipated opportunity for countries to coordinate action to decelerate climate change and mitigate its devastating effects. While US President Joseph Biden has vowed to make climate issues a priority for his administration, his ability to deliver in Glasgow will depend in large part on politics at home. The 2021 Chicago Council Survey data indicate that the administration will grapple with significant partisan divisions not only in Congress but also among the American public. Along with immigration, climate change is consistently one of the most starkly polarizing American foreign policy issues.
- Large majorities of Democrats think the United States should play a leading role on limiting climate change (81%) and consider it to be a critical threat (82%).
- By contrast, only 31 percent of Republicans support a leading US role on limiting climate change, and just 16 percent consider it a critical threat.
- Gallup polling shows that seven in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents (71%) place a higher priority on protecting the environment than on economic growth. Nearly as many Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (68%) emphasize economic growth over environmental protection.
- Both partisan groups are less likely to favor protecting the environment than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on the US economy.