Six in 10 Americans are now either “alarmed” or “concerned” about global warming, a study conducted by the Yale Programme on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Centre for Climate Change Communication has found. According to the nationally-representative survey of public opinion conducted from December 2013 to December 2018, the proportion of “alarmed” more than doubled.
A prior research had categorised Americans into six groups – Global Warming’s Six Americas – based on their climate change beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours. The “alarmed” are the most worried about global warming and most supportive of aggressive action to reduce carbon pollution. In contrast, the “dismissive” do not believe global warming is happening or human-caused and strongly oppose climate action.
A survey conducted in December 2018 finds that the Alarmed segment is at an all-time high (29%) – which is double that segment’s size in 2013 and an 8-point increase since March 2018. Conversely, the Dismissive (9%) and Doubtful (9%) segments have both decreased over the last five years. The percentage of Americans in these two segments has declined by 12 points since 2013.
Although the size of the Concerned segment has remained relatively consistent since 2013, this doesn’t mean that those who were previously Concerned did not change their minds. Rather, it is likely that many who were previously Concerned became Alarmed, and many who were previously Cautious or Disengaged became Concerned. Over the past five years, the U.S. population as a whole has moved away from the Doubtful and Dismissive segments and toward the Alarmed and Concerned segments.
In 2013, the Alarmed and Dismissive were an equal size at 14% of U.S. adults. As of the end of 2018, however, the Alarmed now outnumber the Dismissive more than 3 to 1 (29% vs. 9%), representing a major shift in these two “issue publics” most engaged in the issue of climate change.
These trends indicate that the political climate of climate change is shifting toward action.