In 2009, the Centre for Climate Change Communication of George Mason University, USA, said it identified six distinct climate opinion audiences within the American public – the “Alarmed”, “Concerned”, “Cautious”, “Disengaged”, “Doubtful”, and “Dismissive” – Global Warming’s Six Americas.
The “Alarmed” are the most engaged with global warming: they are convinced it is happening and human-caused, are very worried about it, and strongly support climate action. The “Concerned” are also convinced global warming is happening and human-caused, but they worry about it less and are less motivated to take action.
The “Cautious” are uncertain about whether or not global warming is happening and human-caused, and are not very worried about it, so they are less motivated to act. The “Disengaged” are largely unaware of global warming.
The “Doubtful” question whether global warming is happening or human-caused, and perceive it as a low risk, so they are among the least motivated to act. The “Dismissive£ reject the idea that global warming is happening and human-caused, do not view it as a threat, and tend to strongly oppose climate policies.
Most recently, about one in four (26%) Americans are “Alarmed”. They outnumber the “Dismissive” (11%) by more than two to one. Since the Centre’s last Six Americas report, the “Alarmed” segment has decreased by 7 percentage points (from 33% in September 2021), however, the majority of Americans (53%) are still either “Alarmed” or “Concerned”, while fewer than half that number (22%) are either “Doubtful” or “Dismissive”.
The Six Americas Over the Last Decade
Since 2012, the “Alarmed” segment has more than doubled in size, growing from 12% of the U.S. population in 2012 to 26% in 2022 (+14 percentage points). The “Alarmed” segment is now similar in size to the “Concerned” (27%). Conversely, the “Cautious” segment has decreased in size from 29% in 2012 to 17% in 2022 (-12 percentage points). The “Concerned”, “Disengaged”, “Doubtful”, and “Dismissive” segments have remained relatively similar in size over the last decade.
Communication Challenges and Opportunities
According to the Centre, the increase in the number of “Alarmed” Americans tracks closely with the increase in the percentage of Americans who understand that global warming is a present-day problem that is already harming communities across the nation. In other words, Americans are increasingly coming to understand that climate change impacts are happening here and now.
“It remains important to continue to communicate with the public about the many harms that climate change is already causing in American communities (e.g., health and economic impacts, damage to infrastructure from extreme weather). Our research has shown that many Americans trust NASA, climate scientists, TV weathercasters, their doctors, and a range of other experts for information on global warming.
“Additionally, most registered voters think schools should teach children about the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to global warming. Educators have key roles to play in helping Americans better understand the threats of and solutions to climate change,” submitted the Centre.