In December 2015, officials from nearly every country in the world met in Paris to negotiate a global agreement to limit global warming. Last April, the U.S. and 174 other countries signed the agreement, with most of the others following suit since then.
For the past month, President Donald Trump and his senior advisers have wrestled over whether to keep the U.S. in the Paris climate agreement, repeatedly postponing their meeting to reach a final decision.
We would not presume to know the mind of the POTUS or his senior advisers. But, because we have polled the American people about climate change nearly two dozen times in recent years, we have a good understanding of what voters think about this issue.
Our research finds that a clear majority of Americans say that global warming is happening, human-caused and a serious threat requiring action. More specifically, there is broad public support for the Paris Agreement – even among Trump voters.
Support for Paris
By more than 5 to 1, voters say the U.S. should participate in the Paris climate agreement.
In a nationally representative survey conducted last November after the election, we found that seven in 10 registered voters say the U.S. should participate in the Paris climate agreement. Only 13 percent say the U.S. should not.
Majorities of Democrats and Independents, as well as half of Republicans, say the U.S. should participate. Only conservative Republicans are split, with marginally more saying the U.S. should participate than saying we should not.
By nearly 2 to 1, Trump voters say the U.S. should participate in the Paris Agreement. Almost half of Trump’s voters say the U.S. should participate, compared with only 28 percent who say the U.S. should not.
We have also found that a majority of Americans in all 50 states say that the U.S. should participate in the Paris climate agreement.
Even states with the lowest levels of popular support – West Virginia (52 percent support), North Dakota (56 percent) and Kentucky (56 percent) – have a majority of citizens who say the U.S. should participate in the global agreement. So do the states that provided President Trump with his electoral win: Pennsylvania (68 percent), Michigan (65 percent) and Wisconsin (64 percent).
Attitudes toward climate change
Over the past decade, a growing number of Americans have come to understand that global warming is happening and that Americans are already being harmed by it.
A small and declining number of Americans continue to dismiss the reality and the risks of global warming. Our analysis finds that, currently, 9 percent of Americans have what we characterize as “dismissive” beliefs about the issue. Meanwhile, 18 percent are “alarmed” (i.e., very concerned about the issue) and 34 percent are “concerned” (moderately concerned about the issue).
Conservative Republicans are the least likely to accept that global warming is happening. However, large numbers of conservative Republicans have revised their views in the past several years.
Between spring of 2014 and fall of 2016, the proportion of conservative Republicans who said that global warming is happening increased 18 percentage points – from 28 percent to 46 percent. It is rare to see such a large change in public attitudes in such a short span of time, especially on issues that have long been debated and politically polarized.
It’s too soon to know if President Trump will side with the nationalists on his advisory team who want to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, or whether he will side with his moderate advisers (including members of his own family) and with dozens of American business leaders who want the United States to remain in the Paris Agreement.
However, one thing is clear: Americans and American voters – by a wide margin – want our nation to remain a participant and leader in the international agreement to reduce global warming pollution.
Ed Maibach, Director of Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University; Anthony Leiserowitz, Director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, Yale University, and Jennifer Marlon, Research Scientist, Yale University