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Pope Francis influenced US’ climate conversation, says report

Today more Americans and more American Catholics are worried about global warming than six months ago and more believe it will have significant impacts on human beings, says the report from a newly conducted study.

Pope Francis. Photo credit:

Pope Francis. Photo credit:

Titled “The Francis Effect: How Pope Francis changed the conversation about global warming,” the study was conducted by the Centre for Climate Change Communication at the George Mason University, USA.

According to the report, some of the changes in Americans’ and American Catholics’ views can be attributed to the Pope’s teachings, as 17 percent of Americans and 35 percent of Catholics say his position on global warming influenced their own views of the issue.

The report’s results draw from a unique study design of within-subject surveys of a nationally representative sample of American adults conducted in the Spring, prior to the release of the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si’, and again in the Fall, after the Pope’s visit to the United States.

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Key findings include:

Americans have become more concerned about global warming

  • More Americans say that global warming is happening (Americans: from 62% in March to 66% in October, +4 points; American Catholics: from 64% in March to 74% in October, +10 points).
  • More Americans have become worried about global warming (Americans: from 51% in March to 59% in October, +8 points; American Catholics: from 53% to 64%, +11 points).
  • More Americans say that the issue of global warming has become very or extremely important to them personally (Americans: from 19% to 26%, +7 points; American Catholics: from 15% to 23%, +8 points).
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More Americans think global warming will harm people here and abroad

  • More think global warming will cause a great deal or moderate harm to people in developing countries (Americans: from 48% to 63%, +15 points; American Catholics: from 45% to 62%, +17 points).
  • More think global warming will harm the world’s poor (Americans: from 49% to 61%, +12 points; American Catholics: from 42% to 62%, +20 points).
  • More think global warming will harm future generations of people (Americans: from 60% to 70%, +10 points; American Catholics: from 63% to 74%, +11 points).
  • More Americans (from 48% to 57%, +9 points), and more American Catholics (from 45% to 58%, +13 points), think global warming will harm people in the United States a great deal or a moderate amount.
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Aligned with Pope Francis’s message, Americans are more likely to think global warming is:

  • A moral issue (Americans: from 32% to 38%, +6 points; American Catholics: from 34% to 42%, +8 points).
  • A social fairness issue (Americans: from 21% to 29%, +8 points; American Catholics: from 21% to 25%, +4 points).
  • A religious issue (Americans: from 8% to 12%, +4 points; American Catholics: from 6% to 13%, +7 points).

According to the Centre, the report “includes many more fascinating results, including public views of Pope Francis, the salience of global warming as an issue, changes in key beliefs, feelings and thoughts about global warming, changes in how the issue is conceptualised by Americans, their moral responses, and their support for climate action.”


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