Democrats express more concern about climate change
Nearly one-half of Americans say global climate change is caused by a combination of human activity and nature
Support for canceling the Keystone Pipeline plummets from 2021
ST. LEO, FL – Americans are less concerned about global climate change and the environment now than in previous years, a new Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey shows with the latest poll displaying the lowest level of concern in six years of polling data.
Polling was conducted online February 28 through March 12, among 1,000 total respondents nationally. The resulting margin of error for the results is 3.0 percentage points in either direction. In Florida, where Saint Leo University’s residential campus is located, 500 additional people were polled. The margin of error for the responses is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Concern about climate change nationally is 70.2 percent; in 2021, 72.2 percent said they were worried, and in previous years, the polling showed 73.3 percent were concerned in 2020, 71.3 percent in 2019, 74.4 percent in 2018, and 75.1 percent in 2017.
In Florida, the latest polling shows 72.6 percent say they are concerned about climate change and the environment. Previous polls reported concern at 75 percent in 2021, 75.9 percent in 2020, 68.6 percent in 2019, 74.4 percent in 2018, and 75.5 percent in 2017.
Concern is greater among those who are Democratic—at 89.7 percent, with Republicans at 54.6 percent, and independents at 68.2 percent. Among those who self-identified as liberal, concern is 92.1 percent, while for moderates, concern measures 74.3 percent and for conservatives, it is 53.5 percent. Senior respondents in the national poll express the most concern at 75.4 percent in the 65 and older age group, while 74.9 percent in the 18-44 age group, and 64.1 percent of those ages 45 to 64 say they are concerned about climate change.
“I wonder how much of this result is tied to people feeling like they, themselves, are doing more to help the environment, so maybe it’s not in as much trouble as it once was [it still is],” said Dr. Cheryl Kozina, associate professor of biology, who examined the polling results. “With more people telecommuting, reducing their commutes [either not commuting at all or limiting the days that they commute to the office], I could imagine that many people believe that we are doing more now for the environment than we once were. While true, this is just a small step in the right direction. Human contributions to climate change cannot be ignored: agriculture, deforestation, and most importantly, the use [overuse] of fossil fuels in industry and transportation.”
Cause and Effect
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute provided respondents with four statements related to the cause of climate change and asked which statements best reflect their beliefs.
Results are displayed in the following table:
|Views on Global Climate Change||National February 2019 – %||National February 2020 – %||National February 2021 – %||National March 2022 – %||Florida February 2019 – %||Florida February 2020 – %||Florida February 2021 – %||Florida March 2022 – %|
|Global climate change is caused entirely by human activity||21.5||25.2||25.6||25.4||21.4||26.9||27.8||29.8|
|Global climate change is caused entirely by nature||11.5||11.3||12.1||11.2||13.4||12.9||13.2||12.6|
|Global climate change is caused by a combination of human activity and nature||54.8||52.4||52.8||48.9||52.2||51.8||49.6||46.2|
|I don’t believe global climate change is occurring||6.1||5.9||6.0||7.8||7.4||5.2||6.0||6.8|
|Don’t know / unsure||6.1||5.2||3.5||6.7||5.6||3.2||3.4||4.6|
Nearly one-half of all respondents nationally, 48.9 percent, suggest global climate change is caused by a combination of human activity and nature. Another 25.4 percent and 11.2 percent suggest it is caused entirely by human activity and entirely by nature, respectively.
Of the 48.9 percent who say climate change is caused by human activity and nature, the responses are fairly even among political party lines with 44.6 percent of those who are Republicans, 46.3 percent of those who are Democrats, and 52.7 percent of those who are independent saying it’s humans and nature. However, in Florida polling, a difference among party lines is shown. Out of the 46.2 percent of Florida respondents saying climate change is a result of human activity and nature, 48.4 percent of Republican respondents, 39.5 percent of Democratic respondents, and 53.9 percent of independent respondents agree.
By age groups among Florida respondents, the youngest respondents, 36.2 percent of those ages 18-44, say climate change is a result of a combination of human activity and nature, while 51.3 percent of those ages 45-64, and 57.1 percent of those ages 65 and older, agree. In national polling, of the 48.9 percent who say climate change is caused by people and nature, 40 percent of those 18-44, 52.4 percent of those 45-64, and 66.2 percent of those 65 and older agree.
The poll also asked respondents to indicate if they saw each of the following occurring in their state or region. Multiple responses were accepted. Results are presented in declining order based on March 2022 national results.
|Do You See Any of the Following Occurring in your State or Region?||>National February 2019 – %||National February 2020 – %||National February 2021 – %||National March 2022 – %||Florida February 2019 – %||Florida February 2020 – %||Florida February 2021 – %||Florida March 2022 – %|
|Unusually severe weather and/or storms||39.2||32.8||28.1||30.6||38.8||35.1||34.6||23.2|
|Worsened air quality||22.3||22.7||23.5||22.1||14.8||17.1||19.6||14.0|
|Worsened drought conditions||19.7||19.2||24.5||20.5||14.8||14.0||16.4||14.4|
|Ocean rising or seacoast flooding||15.1||15.9||16.3||13.5||37.6||41.6||36.8||26.8|
|Loss or threatened loss of habitats||15.6||15.2||14.9||8.7||23.2||24.6||21.4||14.6|
|Loss or threatened loss of species||13.6||14.4||13.2||8.5||24.4||24.8||22.4||12.0|
|Increased polar oscillations (also called polar vortex or displaced polar air)||16.1||9.9||11.5||7.6||5.8||5.6||6.6||3.8|
Respondents also were asked if they thought climate change was very or somewhat responsible for the conditions listed in the above table, and 59 percent of national respondents and 58.2 percent of Florida poll respondents say warmer temperatures are a result of climate change, which was a significant decrease from previous polling. In 2021, 71.2 percent nationally and 72 percent of Floridians polled said climate change brought about warmer temperatures.
The poll included an opportunity for respondents to identify how responsible global climate change was for environmental events. For each of the following, respondents were asked if global climate change was very responsible, somewhat responsible, not very responsible or not at all responsible. The table holds the cumulative totals for those suggesting global climate change was very or somewhat responsible for each environmental event. Results are displayed in declining order by national March 2022 results.
|Responsibility for Global Climate Change?||National February 2019 – %||National February 2020 – %||National February 2021 – %||National March 2022 – %||Florida February 2019 – %||Florida February 2020 – %||Florida February 2021- %||Florida March 2022 – %|
|Unusually severe weather / storms||63.8||63.7||67.6||51.4||62.4||68.4||65.2||47.6|
|Ocean rising or seacoast flooding||66.9||68.8||70.5||46.7||67.2||73.3||73.0||48.0|
|Worsened drought conditions||61.9||64.7||67.5||44.7||58.4||65.8||62.6||40.6|
|Worsened air quality||56.8||58.2||63.5||40.6||53.0||59.2||61.4||38.6|
|Loss or threatened loss of species||58.3||59.8||64.2||36.5||57.8||64.3||59.0||35.4|
|Loss or threatened loss of habitats||58.7||61.4||63.2||35.5||58.4||63.7||61.8||36.0|
|Wildfires in the United States||—||58.1||62.2||34.7||—||60.9||58.8||38.6|
|Increased polar oscillations (also called polar vortex or displaced polar air)||55.3||57.6||59.0||29.3||54.6||56.1||55.4||24.8|
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute also asked respondents how important they would say it is for their own community or area to establish a department with employees or to start a program to work on the issue of climate change on the local level. A majority, 62.4 percent (up slightly from 62.2 percent in February 2021 and down slightly from 63.3 percent in February 2020) indicated such a department or program would be very or somewhat important. Saying it was somewhat or not important at all are 25.8 percent while 11.8 percent say they are unsure.
When examining whose responsibility it is to protect the Earth, nearly two-thirds, 64.9 percent of those polled nationally, indicate they think protecting the environment is a responsibility of people of religious faith. In the Florida poll, 69.4 percent say it’s a task for people of faith.
Of the 64.9 percent nationally saying protection of the environment is the responsibility of people of religious faith, 67.3 percent of Catholics agree while 69.5 percent of other Christian religions, 64.4 percent of other religions, and 55.6 percent of those who do not belong to an organized religion agree. In Florida, of the 69.4 percent saying protecting the Earth is the duty of people of faith, 68.9 percent of Catholics agree, while 73.3 percent of those of other Christian denominations, 74.1 percent of other religions, and 60.4 percent of those who do not belong to a religion, agree.
Canceling the Pipeline
Respondents were presented with the following: “One of President Biden’s first executive orders was to cancel the Keystone crude oil pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Midwest and the U.S. Gulf Coast. Supporters of the executive order cite the pipeline’s negative impact on the environment while opponents of the order cite the loss of thousands of jobs as well as the loss of some domestic oil supply. Based on all you know or have heard, how strongly do you support or oppose the president’s decision?”
Between 2021 and 2022 polling, support for canceling the Keystone Pipeline declined significantly. In March 2022, 38.3 percent of those polled nationally, strongly or somewhat approve of cancellation of the pipeline, compared to 47 percent in February 2021, a decrease of 8.7 percentage points. Among Florida respondents, support dipped from 47.8 percent in February 2021 to 41.4 percent strongly or somewhat approving of the pipeline cancellation in March of this year. Nationally, 44.4 percent say they strongly or somewhat oppose canceling the Keystone Pipeline while 43 percent of Florida poll respondents say they strongly or somewhat oppose cancellation of the pipeline.
Kozina, the Saint Leo University biology faculty member, said she thinks that the timing of the polling could have affected the results. The poll was fielded just as gas prices increased dramatically in the United States.
“Many of the people polled might erroneously think that the Keystone Pipeline could directly affect our gas prices,” she noted. “It’s interesting from an environmental perspective because a lot of the original concerns—environmental damage from oil spills, effects on water supplies [important freshwater aquifers, rivers that supply water to tribal lands], could potentially still be concerns if the Keystone Pipeline were to move forward again. Oil spills cannot be 100 percent guaranteed to be prevented, so the public needs to consider the pros and cons of moving forward with the pipeline again, especially if it won’t actually help their pocketbooks in the way that they think.”
About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: This national survey was conducted February 28 – March 12, among a base of 1,000 respondents nationally, using an online instrument. The national sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 3.0 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 1,000 respondents.
A statewide survey was also conducted during the same time period, among a base of 500 Florida respondents, using an online instrument. The sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 500 respondents.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.
About Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering 62 degree programs to more than 15,800 students each year. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks and sisters, the private, nonprofit university is known for providing a values-based education to learners of all backgrounds and ages in the liberal arts tradition. Saint Leo is regionally accredited and offers a residential campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, 16 education centers in five states, and an online program for students anywhere. The university is home to more than 100,000 alumni. Learn more at saintleo.edu.
Media contact: Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Writer & Media Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, (352) 588-7118 or cell (813) 610-8416.