Detailed results available in tabular format compare Saint Leo results over three years

ST. LEO, FL – New nonpartisan survey work by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute ( shows that three-quarters of the adult population nationally consider themselves very or somewhat concerned about global climate change. The first year the survey was conducted, in 2015, the combined concern level was nearly as high, at 73 percent, and then nudged up in 2016 to 75 percent. It persists there this year.

The 2017 results show that when asked, “How concerned are you about global climate change?” 43.5 percent of adults were very concerned and 31.6 somewhat concerned, totaling 75.1 percent. The survey was conducted online among 1,073 respondents nationally between March 3 and March 11, 2017. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points in either direction. This is the same methodology used each year.

Additionally, the polling institute asked the same questions, for the third year, of a separate group of respondents from across Florida. They numbered 507 this year. Florida is the home of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute and often a bellwether of national political attitudes.

Assessing Concern about Global Climate Change

Possible answers March 2017   U.S. March 2016 U.S. March 2015 U.S. March 2017 FL March  2016 FL March 2015 FL
Very concerned 43.5% 37.1% 30% 39.6% 45.9% 28%
Somewhat concerned 31.6% 37.9% 43% 35.9% 35.4% 39%
Combined concern groups 75.1% 75% 73%   75.5% 81.3% 67%
Somewhat not concerned 12.2% 11% 15% 10.8% 7.6% 18%
Not at all concerned  9.9% 9.9% 11% 10.8% 8.3% 14%
Don’t know/not sure 2.8% 4.0% 1% 2.8% 2.8% 1%

In Florida, 75.5 percent of adults said they were very or somewhat concerned about global climate change, down from 81.3 percent last year. With the Florida responses, the smaller sample size leads to a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points in either direction, which makes the year-to-year change statistically modest.

The other options people had for answers to the question of level of concern were: somewhat not concerned (12.2 percent nationally and 10.8 percent in Florida this year); not at all concerned (9.9 percent nationally and 10.8 percent in Florida this year); I don’t know/not sure (2.8 percent both nationally and in Florida this year.)

A follow-up question found that 59.5 percent nationally and 54 percent in Florida believe global climate change is caused by a combination of human activity and nature. The percentage saying that global climate change is caused entirely by human activity was 22.1 percent nationally, as compared to 10.1 percent who said the change is entirely caused by nature. (The question is significant to dialogue about effectively curbing climate change.)

Of Florida respondents, 23.1 said global climate change is entirely caused by humans, compared to 13.2 percent who attribute it entirely to nature.

A minority of less than 10 percent combined said either that global climate change is not occurring or they don’t know. That result presented nationally and in Florida.

In both national and Florida samples, significant percentages of respondents (60 percent or more) currently consider global climate change to be either very or somewhat responsible for conditions including seacoast flooding, inland flooding, warmer temperatures, unusually severe weather occurrences or storms, and more.

Dr. Leo Ondrovic of the Saint Leo University science faculty reviewed poll results, including year-to-year patterns. “Respondents to this survey who believe in global climate change theory overwhelmingly outnumber those who do not. Roughly three out of four Americans, across all age groups, ethnic groups, and religious groups, indicate they are strongly or somewhat concerned about global climate change. There are slightly higher numbers attributed to additional years of education, but the largest divergence in views is between the political left and right, which is interesting, because this really isn’t a political question. It may be time to start asking skeptical politicians exactly what part of the very well-established global climate change theory they do not believe.”

Delving into age patterns among respondents also proved significant, Ondrovic said, noting “the other divergence in views was seen between those under 35 and those over 65. Two and one-half times as many of the younger group indicate they believe climate change is the result of human activity, when compared to those of retirement age. That is cause for hope.”

Individual and Collective Responses

The survey also tried to find out what people are willing to do to reduce carbon pollution to alleviate climbing atmospheric temperatures.

When people were asked about what they are willing to do in their own households, they are more likely to be willing to buy a more fuel-efficient car (mid- to high-30-percent range) than to willingly accept tax increases for environmental efforts or for construction of more mass transit infrastructure. This was reflected in percentage point differences of 12 or more. That general pattern has been true throughout the three years of the survey—even though, in response to a related question, smaller percentage groups reported that they did pay higher taxes for those two purposes.

While those questions reflected on life at the individual household level, there were other interesting questions concerning belief and action, noted Dr. Michael Anthony Novak of the Saint Leo University theology and religion faculty. Novak pointed to a question that has been part of the survey for three years.

Respondents are asked if they agree or not, and at what level of intensity, with a repeated statement from Pope Francis that protection of the environment is the responsibility of all Christians. The national combined national levels of people strongly and somewhat agreeing falls in a range from 72 to 77 percent over the three years. Yet, the national level of support for U.S. participation in the 2015 Paris Climate treaty somehow lags agreement with the pope’s teaching on environmental care, Novak commented. And Florida results are similar.

How strongly people
supported or agreed
Pope Francis: Christians are responsible to protect the environment The U.S. should reduce carbon pollution as in the Paris Climate Treaty
Strongly 44.9% 37.7%
Somewhat 30.7% 28.1%
Combined level of support or agreement 75.6% 65.8%

The theologian said he is “struck by the fact that there is a consistently higher support for Pope Francis’s insistence that the environment is the responsibility of all Christians than there is for participating in the Paris agreement. This is true across every divide of politics, race, sex, age, and income that we track. It is true for Catholics and for other Christians…Perhaps this indicates merely that it is easier to voice approval for a general ethic than it is for the specifics of a policy agreement. But it is notable that across all these divides, the idea that Catholic Christianity sees environmental stewardship as a religious duty is an idea that is largely accepted, and perhaps is even taken for granted.”

Governments and Others

The polling institute has also asked people for three years to consider the roles of the federal government, state governments, local governments, international bodies, or the private business sector or entrepreneurs in dealing with problems associated with global climate change.

In two questions, respondents were able to choose multiple answers reflecting which entities which entities or levels of government they say have a responsibility for dealing with climate-change problems. They were also asked to pick out which ones had been effective in coping with problems.

In a continuing pattern, people most often name the federal government for having a responsibility to deal with problems stemming from climate change. This answer was selected by 61 percent of respondents nationally and 59.2 percent in Florida. The federal government is followed in the national sample by the answer “international bodies” at 46.6 percent, and then state governments at 41.4 percent. Florida, that order was reversed: 44 percent said state governments, compared to 40 percent who said international bodies. The choices of the private sector and local governments each were in the mid-30 percent range of responses from both the national and Florida samples. There is still significant uncertainty, though, with more than 15 percent of people in each sample saying they don’t know where responsibility should be placed.

And more than a third of people don’t know which entity or level of government had been most effective in coping with climate-change related problems. “I don’t know” was actually the most commonly reported answer to that question, appearing in 40.2 percent of responses nationally and 34.9 percent in Florida.

In a different approach to the topic, people were also asked to zero in on just one answer as to which entity or level of government they believed to be best able to deal with problems created by climate change. The most common answer to that nationally and in Florida was the federal government, with answers just shy of one-third. The percentage levels were 32.2 percent nationally and 32.4 percent in Florida. Roughly 20 percent nationally and in Florida said international bodies were best suited, and about the same percentages of people said they didn’t know. Just over 12 percent of respondents in Florida said states are best able to cope with problems. In the national sample, 8.8 percent of respondents named state governments.

Frank Orlando, political scientist and director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute, said in terms of citizens’ perception of ability to deal with climate change, “there appears to be a slight trend away from state, local, and private solutions and toward national and international solutions over the past few years. Despite this, the big issue from a policy perspective is that it is very difficult to measure the success of different bodies in combatting climate change. This is reflected in our results. When success and failure is difficult to assess,” Orlando said, “it is easy for officeholders to abdicate responsibility on issues because they know it’s very difficult for voters to hold them accountable.”


Media contacts: Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-8237 or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).     

Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-7118 or (813) 610-8416 (cell/text).


More About Our Research

METHODOLOGY: All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The national poll of 1,073 adults was conducted from March 3 through March 11, 2017 and has a plus or minus 3.0 percent margin of error. A sample of 507 adults in Florida were also surveyed during the same time period. The findings from the Florida survey have a plus or minus 4.5 percent margin of error.

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 be found here: You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.


About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University ( is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever our students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. We welcome people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourage learners of all generations. We are committed to providing educational

opportunities to our nation’s armed forces, our veterans, and their families. We are regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and we guide all our students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.

We remain the faithful stewards of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where our founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving nearly 15,000 students, we have expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintain a physical presence in seven states. We provide highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 82,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.