Sorry, GOP: A majority of Americans think government should act on climate

Younger Republicans now agree the government isn’t doing enough to reduce the effects of climate change

By Nicole Karlis
November 27, 2019 12:53AM (UTC)
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Tumbleweed rolls across a dried out landscape in central California's Kern County as trucks head south toward the Grapevine to begin the climb over the Tejon Pass leading into Southern California, on February 3, 2014. The United States government announced on February 5 a new system of regional hubs to tackle the effects of climate change as the country's southwest battles a historic drought. In January, California declared a state of emergency due to what could be the worst drought in a century for the state, and which has prompted fears of lost harvests and devastating forest fires. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite scientific consensus and observational evidence from the hellscape that is the planet Venus — a prime example of how an out-of-control greenhouse effect can heat a planet — many wealthy industrialists and their lackeys in the GOP deny the reality of climate change, and have sought to spread misinformation about the science behind it.

Now, a new poll shows that Americans aren't as fooled as some feared. Perhaps that's partially because the effects of climate change are now omnipresent: more intense wildfires, longer droughts, and toxic algae blooms, to name but a few.


Climate deniers are traditionally aligned with the American right, understandably given their pro–big business views. Yet a new Pew Research poll finds that many younger conservatives say that the government isn't doing enough to reduce the effects of climate change. That suggests that U.S. politics may be coming to resemble one of the many European countries that have right-wing green parties, and/or conservative parties that do not deny basic science on climate change.

The Pew Research Center conducted the survey, titled "U.S. Public Views on Climate and Energy," which polled 3,627 U.S. adults and was conducted between Oct. 1 and Oct. 13, 2019. Among those surveyed, 67 percent say the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change. Similar shares agree that the government’s efforts to protect air and water qualities are lacking.

For Democrats surveyed, their views on the subject were near-unanimous: 90 percent believe the government needs to take more action to ease the effects of climate change. Republicans are divided, but a majority — 65 percent, including GOP-leaning independents — say the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change. About one-quarter of conservative Republicans agree, while 48 percent say the government is putting the right amount of effort into combating climate change. Another 26 percent says the government is doing too much.


The divide among Republicans appears to be a generational one. Fifty-two percent of Millennial and Generation Z Republicans think the government’s efforts are insufficient, compared to the 41 percent of Generation X and 31 percent of Baby Boomers who say this. Forty-six percent of Republican women say the government’s efforts to fight climate change aren’t enough, while 34 percent of Republican men believe the government’s climate efforts are lagging.

Interestingly, 77 percent of Americans say that it is a priority to develop an alternative energy source to fossil fuels, rather than expand the production of oil, coal and natural gas. Ninety percent of Democrats surveyed agree with this, while the Republicans vary again by demographic. Conservative Republicans are evenly divided over whether to prioritize alternative energy or expand fossil fuel production. Seventy-eight percent of Millennial and Generation Z adults — meaning, between the ages of 18 to 38 — agree the government should prioritize alternative energies instead of fossil fuel expansion.

Overall, 49 percent of Americans say they believe human activity is a contributor to climate change, while 30 percent say human actions play some role in it. Twenty percent believe human activity doesn’t contribute too much or that human activity does not play a role in climate change at all.


Ultimately, this latest poll adds to a growing trend of polls showing that Americans are increasingly alarmed about climate change.

“Americans are finally beginning waking up to the existential threat that the climate emergency poses to our society,” Margaret Klein Salamon, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Climate Mobilization Project, told The Guardian in September. “This is huge progress for our movement — and it’s young people that have been primarily responsible for that.”

Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a staff writer at Salon. She covers health, science, tech and gender politics. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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