Fourth annual national and Florida state survey goes to practical and ethical matters

SAINT LEO, FL – For the fourth consecutive year, the Saint Leo University Polling Institute ( has found a strong majority of Americans attesting to concern about climate change: 74.4 percent of those surveyed in February 2018 said they are either very concerned—40 percent—or somewhat concerned at 34.4 percent.

Of the remaining responses, 11.4 percent said they are somewhat unconcerned and another 11.3 percent said they are not at all concerned. A few, 2.9 percent, said they don’t know.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute collected these responses from 1,007 adults from February 18 to February 24 using an online instrument. A parallel sample was taken in Florida with 500 respondents and results are nearly the same.

Four-Year Picture: Combined percentages of those who are very concerned or are somewhat concerned about climate change

Survey groups 2018 – % 2017 – % 2016 – % 2015 – %
U.S. sample 74.4 75.1 75.1 73
Florida sample 74.4 75.5 81.3 67


“Americans continue to show concern over global climate change, and the numbers of those who make the connection to human activities is also persistent,” said Dr. Leo Ondrovic, science faculty member at Saint Leo University. Ondrovic noted that over the years the proportion of respondents (both nationally and in Florida) who say they believe climate change is caused by both human activity and nature has been more than half. In February, 54.9 percent nationally and 56.4 percent in Florida indicated this belief. “Fewer than 5 percent said they do not believe climate change is occurring.”

The poll results also indicate respondents consider climate change a factor in some of the environmental events they know of or experience. “Roughly three out of four Americans believe climate change is to blame for rising sea levels and higher temperatures,” Ondrovic said, “and a majority of those polled think climate change is the cause of increased inland flooding and droughts, more violent storms, bomb cyclones, polar oscillations, decreased air quality, and habitat and species losses.”

In Florida, for example, 73.4 percent of those surveyed said they consider climate change very responsible or somewhat responsible for seacoast flooding. Just over 67 percent of those polled in Florida—all of which was visited by Hurricane Irma in September 2017—­-hold global warming very or somewhat responsible for unusually severe storms. In the national sample, more than 60 percent said climate change was very or somewhat responsible for bomb cyclones, the term weather sites and scientists were widely using to describe the particularly intense winter snowstorm that traveled up the East Coast of the United States in early January.

Appetite and Motivations for Individual Climate Action
In a new question added this year, the institute asked respondents which one of six stakeholders) is “best able to prevent the causes of global warming.” The answers collected nationally are shown from most frequently chosen to least. More than one in five people claim this as a personal responsibility. The same amount said they don’t know. One in five said they look to the federal government.

Answers in order of responses from U.S. results – best able to prevent global warming February U.S.- % February FL – %
Personal responsibility of every individual (acting with care of the environment in mind) 21.7 21
Don’t know or not sure 21.7 19.4
Federal or national government 20.9 21.2
International bodies 15.9 16.4
Private sector businesses or entrepreneurs 9.6 11.2
State governments 5.7 6.8
Local  governments 4.5 4


Ondrovic said the exercise of personal responsibility is evident elsewhere in the national results, as well. For instance, he noted, “44.3 percent report the purchase of higher efficiency appliances, and roughly one in four report adding insulation to their homes, carpooling, planting trees, and the purchase of smaller or more fuel-efficient cars.” Those personal choices and others were mentioned in a list asking respondents about things they have done or might do to reduce carbon pollution. “There is an economic argument for every one of these actions,” Ondrovic noted, adding that respondents could be motivated by the prospect of saving money as well as reducing carbon pollution. “Saving money and protecting the climate are not always mutually exclusive,’’ he said.

The polling institute also wanted to explore the influence of religion as a factor that can motivate or explain personal ecological choices. Periodically for instance, Pope Francis speaks publicly on the theme of care of the environment as a Christian responsibility.

The February survey asked about religion, but broadly, without citing a particular religion such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or other faiths. Respondents were asked:

Would you say you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree that protecting the environment is an important responsibility for people of religious faith?

Possible replies February 2018 – U.S. % February 2018 – FL %
Strongly agree 37.3 35.2
Somewhat agree 26.9 28.8
Total who agree 64.2 64
Somewhat disagree 10.8 9.8
Strongly disagree 6.5 11.2
Total who disagree 17.3 21
Don’t know/ not sure 18.5 15


Also, the nationaI survey found that of the people who described themselves as religious or somewhat religious in the demographic portion of the survey, 70.1 percent agreed environmental protection is a responsibility of people of faith.  A nearly identical result was revealed in the Florida poll—70.3 percent.

Attitudes on Government and Private Sector
As in previous years, the polling institute in February explored people’s thoughts on what collective bodies or sectors are most able to deal with problems resulting from climate change, which ones are actually most effective, and which should be the most responsible for dealing with climate-related problems. The possible answers respondents can select are listed in this order: local governments, state governments, federal or national government, international bodies, private-sector businesses or entrepreneurs, or don’t know/not sure.

The answer pattern that has emerged over time and continued in February was indecision or confusion. No one particular option received a ringing endorsement.

When respondents had to select just one in the group from the group of answers to name which would be best able at dealing with the problems attributed to climate change, the federal government was cited most often at 27.4 percent  (28.6 percent in the Florida poll), followed by “not sure” at 22.7 percent (20.8 percent in Florida). International bodies came in third at 19.9 percent nationally (18.6 percent in Florida).

Respondents were allowed to check more than one option to answer the question of which bodies have responsibility in dealing with the effects of climate change. Then, respondents nationally and in Florida spread their answers more evenly among the choices, suggesting people consider the responsibility for climate change responses to be a shared one.

The institute also asked the survey base which of the groups have been effective in dealing with climate change-related problems. This question allows the polling institute to tell if there is a distinction between what people think should happen and what they actually have seen, whether that is from the news, from friends, or perhaps what they witness in their states, counties, cities and towns, at federal properties, or in their industries. In this case, international bodies, at 16.6 percent, slightly outranked the federal government, 15.2 percent. But both were surpassed by the familiar option reported by 28.5 percent of the sample—people were not sure or did not know. Florida differs from the national pattern here only in that international bodies and the federal government statistically tied.

This reflects the difficulties both governing bodies and citizens are having in confronting climate change-related problems, said Frank Orlando, director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute. “It’s not clear who is best able to deal with it, because the nature of the issue is very complex,” Orlando said. “It is also difficult for most citizens to determine what entities have been responsible for what action. That requires a level of engagement on the part of the citizens with the issue that apparently isn’t there. This makes it difficult for any level of governance to claim credit and drive home the message that it is making a difference.”

A recent news event provided the polling institute with the chance to ask respondents about climate change and international bodies. In June 2017, President Donald J. Trump announced he would pull the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, the international pact signed in December 2015 among nearly 200 nations to voluntarily limit carbon pollution. The United States will not actually be able to leave the United Nations-related convention until November 2020, but the announcement that the U.S. country will depart marked a distinct policy shift that people could think about and react to.

The polling institute asked respondents how strongly they supported or opposed the decision to leave the accord. While 15 percent or more were unsure, it seemed with this question respondents had a more precise opinion than with the poll’s other climate change questions.

Leaving the Paris Accord – responses February 2018 – U.S. % February 2018 – FL %
Strongly support 17 21
Somewhat support 15.2 19
Combined supporting 32.2 40
Somewhat oppose 14.1 11.4
Strongly oppose 37.8 33.6
Combined opposing 51.9 45
Don’t know/unsure 15.9 15


Political party affiliation and political philosophy appear to play a role in how many decided this question. While 32.2 percent of the general respondent base nationally supported Trump’s decision, 57.1 percent of Republicans supported it, compared to only 22.4 percent of Democrats and 26.3 percent of independents. Among those who identify themselves as conservatives, 55 percent supported Trump’s exit from the accord, compared to 26.8 percent of moderates, and 13.3 percent of liberals.

Age group, income, and education did not seem to make a difference. Men supported Trump in higher proportions than women: 40.2 percent among men compared to 23.9 percent among women.

About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: The poll sampled opinions of 1,007 adults approximately proportional to state population contribution nationwide. The survey was conducted February 18 through February 24, 2018. All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The poll has a +/- 3.0 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level on a composite basis.

A sample of 500 Florida respondents has an associated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

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


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).


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 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. Saint Leo welcomes people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourages learners of all generations. The university is committed to providing educational opportunities to the nation’s armed forces, veterans, and their families. Saint Leo is regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and the faculty and staff guide all students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.

The university remains the faithful steward of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where its founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving more than 13,000 students, Saint Leo has expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintains a physical presence in seven states. The university provides highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 90,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.