Politics

CBS News poll: Eye on Earth – how partisans take different views on climate change

President Biden receives positive marks on climate change — 53% approve of his handling of it, with views largely divided along political lines.

Political partisanship is among the biggest factors contributing to differences in Americans’ views on climate change; more so than age, education levels and where in the country one lives. Partisanship is related not only to broader opinions of climate change, but also views on any efforts to address it. 

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Democrats continue to be largely supportive of policies and efforts to stop climate change, whereas Republicans are either less so, or are outright opposed to such efforts (although we do see more support among younger Republicans). Independents overall feel climate change is something that needs to be addressed, but they have more mixed opinions on what the economic impact of doing so will be. 

Climate change: Democrats see it as urgent, and Republicans do not

For Democrats, climate change is something that needs to be dealt with now, and as an issue, it is only outranked by the coronavirus outbreak as a “high priority” for the country to address. Independents think the climate issue is urgent but do not consider it to be as high a priority as Democrats do.

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Republicans stand apart from Democrats and independents on the urgency of addressing climate change. Most don’t think climate change needs to be addressed soon — if at all — and think it should be a “low priority” for the country, relative to things like the economy, the coronavirus and immigration.

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Republicans who don’t feel climate change needs to be addressed soon pick “climate change is exaggerated/not happening” as the top reason why they hold that view. 

Approach to climate: Democrats say we should try to shape it, while Republicans say we should adapt to it

Partisans also differ on what can realistically be done to reduce the effects of climate change. Democrats think efforts to reduce climate change can actually have an impact and think people should take an active role and do something to change the environment. 

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Most Republicans believe it’s unrealistic to think we could lessen changes to the earth’s climate and say we should learn to adapt to any changes and make the best of it.  

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Economic impact of climate change efforts: Democrats think it will mostly help, while Republicans say it will mostly hurt

Americans’ perception of their personal economic impact by climate change is more related to partisanship than factors like income and education levels. Republicans feel they are being hurt economically by government efforts to fight climate change. Democrats feel they are being helped. Independents are more mixed. 

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What does each side think motivates the other?

Republicans don’t always see pure motives in those who are trying to stop climate change. Instead, most see people and groups who have business interests in alternative energy sources (77%) or want to destroy the fossil fuel industry (69%). More think those trying to stop climate change are trying to make political gains (75%) than have the goal of wanting to better the environment (46%). 

When Democrats hear people oppose policies to stop climate change, 61% think it’s because they don’t trust science. Some other reasons they selected include that those who oppose such efforts work in oil and gas (49%) or feel the policies are too expensive (46%).

Younger Republicans more concerned about climate change

Younger Republicans — those under age 45 — are more likely than those who are older to be more concerned about climate change and to think it needs to be addressed soon. 

Climate change objectives, such as transitioning to all renewable energy for power by 2035, are still met with some skepticism among younger Republicans, but more say these are realistic goals than their older counterparts do. 

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This CBS News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 2,003 U.S. residents interviewed between April 13-16, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as the 2020 presidential vote and registration status. The margin of error is ± 2.8 points.

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