Americans Assess What They Can Do to Reduce Global Warming

by Joseph Carroll

Even if people did their part, Americans say more drastic actions still needed

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Global warming seems to be on everyone's lips these days, but are Americans willing to swallow the tough medicine some have prescribed? Most Americans don't predict that weather changes in the next half century will bring disastrous consequences; the plurality say there will be major changes that people and animals can adapt to. Nevertheless, a recent USA Today/Gallup poll finds a tremendous amount of public support for a broad range of measures that would reduce Americans' reliance on fossil fuels, even some actions billed as costing consumers thousands of dollars.

At least 7 in 10 Americans say individuals should help reduce global warming by spending thousands of dollars to make their homes energy efficient, riding mass transit whenever possible, and installing solar panels on their homes to produce energy. But, even if individuals make such changes to their personal lives, Americans say more drastic actions will still be needed to curb global warming. In terms of what the government should be doing, the public supports major research efforts to develop new energy sources and using renewable energy sources in government office buildings. Also, while a slim majority is opposed, nearly half of Americans say the government should apply a surcharge to utility bills which exceed energy use limits, and should ban vehicles averaging less than 30 miles per gallon.

Americans' Views of Global Warming

The Mar. 23-25, 2007, poll finds that 60% of Americans say the effects of global warming have already started to happen, while 4% say global warming effects will start happening within the next few years and 7% say within their own lifetime. Roughly one in six Americans say the effects of global warming will not happen in their lifetime, and only 11% of Americans doubt the predicted effects of global warming will ever happen.

Even though Americans say the effects of global warming have already started, they do not think these effects will cause "extreme" weather and climate changes over the next 50 years. Only 28% of Americans say there will be extreme changes "in climate and weather, with disastrous consequences in some parts of the world." Americans are much more inclined to say that there will either be major climate changes that people and animals will be able to adapt to (38%) or that there will be minor changes that will have little effect on the ways people live (19%). Eleven percent volunteer that there will be no climate or weather changes.

Citizen Action to Reduce Global Warming

Given the belief by most that global warming is a reality, the question turns to what people can do to address the issue. Gallup surveyed Americans about possible actions that individuals should be doing to reduce global warming.

At least 7 in 10 Americans say individuals should be spending money to make their homes more energy efficient (78%), riding mass transit whenever possible (77%), and installing a solar panel to produce energy for their homes (71%). A solid majority of Americans also say individuals should use only fluorescent light bulbs in their homes (69%), should buy a hybrid car (62%), and should unplug electronic equipment when not using it (57%).

The only action tested that Americans resist is supporting the construction of nuclear energy plants near their home -- 34% say individuals should support this to reduce global warming, while 62% say they should not.

Next, I'm going to read a list of steps individuals can take to reduce global warming. Please say for each if that is something you, personally, should or should not be doing.

 

Should be doing

Should
not be doing

2007 Mar 23-25

%

%

Spending several thousand dollars to make your home energy efficient

78

19

Riding mass transit such as buses and subways whenever possible

77

18

Installing a solar panel to produce energy for your home

71

27

Using only fluorescent light bulbs in your home

69

27

Buying a hybrid car

62

33

Unplugging your electronic equipment when not using it

57

39

Supporting the construction of a nuclear energy plant near your home

34

62

Even if Americans took steps such as driving less, recycling, or turning down their thermostat at home, the public does not necessarily think this alone will help to control the effects of global warming. Only 30% of Americans believe these types of actions will help curb global warming; 58% indicate more drastic measures are needed.

Government Action to Reduce Global Warming

What, then, does the public have in mind as far as these drastic measures? The poll asked Americans to evaluate six items and say whether the government should or should not be doing each to reduce global warming. Only two of the six items were endorsed by a majority of Americans: 65% of Americans support starting a major research effort costing up to $30 billion per year to develop new sources of energy, and 60% support requiring government office buildings to use renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind power, even if it results in higher taxes.

Forty-six percent of Americans say the government should require a surcharge on utility bills of home and business owners that exceed monthly usage limits, and 44% say the government should ban vehicles that do not average at least 30 miles per gallon of gasoline.

Americans are least likely to support the government imposing restrictions on U.S. industries and utilities that are so tough it would cause some companies to go out of business (38%) and setting strict land use policies to discourage suburban sprawl and encourage people to live in more densely populated areas (36%).

Now, I'm going to read a list of steps the government can take to reduce global warming. Please say for each if that is something the government should or should not be doing.

 

Should be doing

Should
not be doing

2007 Mar 23-25

%

%

Starting major research effort to develop new energy sources

65

33

Requiring government office buildings to use renewable energy sources

60

38

Requiring surcharge on utility bills when energy use limits exceeded

46

52

Banning vehicles that do not average at least 30 miles per gallon

44

55

Imposing tough restrictions on U.S. industries and utilities

38

58

Setting land-use policies to discourage suburban sprawl

36

60

Partisanship and Global Warming

Democrats and Republicans differ significantly in their views of global warming and actions that can be done to reduce global warming.

  • Democrats (73%) are much more likely than Republicans (41%) or independents (63%) to say the effects of global warming have already begun.

  • Thirty-six percent of Democrats say the effects of global warming will cause extreme weather and climate changes in the next 50 years; only 18% of Republicans say this will happen. Half of Republicans say there will only be minor weather changes or none at all.

  • With the exception of constructing nuclear power plants, Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to say individuals should be doing all of the actions listed in the poll to reduce global warming. Republicans are slightly more in favor than Democrats of building nuclear energy plants.

Steps Individuals Can Take to Reduce Global Warming
Results by Party ID
Mar. 23-25, 2007

Dems.

Inds.

Reps.

(percentage saying "should be doing")

%

%

%

Riding mass transit such as buses and subways whenever possible

83

81

64

Spending several thousand dollars to make your home energy efficient

80

81

71

Using only fluorescent light bulbs in your home

77

71

59

Installing a solar panel to produce energy for your home

76

75

58

Buying a hybrid car

74

64

48

Unplugging your electronic equipment when not using it

68

58

45

Supporting the construction of a nuclear energy plant near your home

30

35

38

Dems. refers to those who describe themselves as Democrats.

Inds. refers to those who describe themselves as independents.

Reps. refers to those who describe themselves as Republicans.

  • There are more minor political variations in views that efforts such as recycling, driving less, or turning down thermostats will help to control global warming in the future. Twenty-seven percent of Democrats say this will work, compared with 34% of Republicans.

  • Democrats also are more likely than Republicans to say the government should be doing each of the six steps listed in the survey to reduce global warming.

Steps the Government Can Take to Reduce Global Warming
Results by Party ID
Mar. 23-25, 2007

Dems.

Inds.

Reps.

(percentage saying "should be doing")

%

%

%

Starting major research effort to develop new energy sources

72

64

58

Requiring government office buildings to use renewable energy sources

72

60

47

Requiring surcharge on utility bills when energy use limits exceeded

59

43

36

Banning vehicles that do not average at least 30 miles per gallon

59

44

26

Setting land-use policies to discourage suburban sprawl

47

35

26

Imposing tough restrictions on U.S. industries and utilities

46

40

28

Dems. refers to those who describe themselves as Democrats.

Inds. refers to those who describe themselves as independents.

Reps. refers to those who describe themselves as Republicans.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,007 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Mar. 23-25, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

33. Which of the following statements reflects your view of when the effects of global warming will begin to happen -- [ROTATED: they have already begun to happen, they will start happening within a few years, they will start happening within your lifetime, they will not happen within your lifetime, but they will affect future generations, (or) they will never happen]?

           




Already begun




Within a few years



Within your lifetime

Not within lifetime, but affect future



Will never happen




No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Mar 23-25

60

4

7

15

11

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Mar 11-14

59

3

8

19

8

3

2006 Mar 13-16

58

5

10

15

8

3

2005 Mar 7-10

54

5

10

19

9

3

2004 Mar 8-11

51

5

12

18

11

3

2003 Mar 3-5

51

6

12

17

10

4

2002 Mar 4-7

53

5

13

17

9

3

2001 Mar 5-7

54

4

13

18

7

4

1997 Nov 6-9

48

3

14

19

9

7

34. If efforts to address the effects of global warming are not increased, which comes closest to your view of what will happen in 50 years -- there will be extreme changes in climate and weather, with disastrous consequences in some parts of the world, there will be major changes in climate and weather, but most people and animals will be able to adapt, or there will be minor changes that will have little effect on the way people live?

Extreme changes

Major changes

Minor changes

NO
CHANGES
(vol.)

No
opinion

2007 Mar 23-25

28%

38

19

11

3

35. Do you think the effects of global warming can be controlled if most people take steps such as driving less, recycling, and turning down their thermostat, or will more drastic measures be needed?

                       

Can be controlled
this way

More drastic
measure sneeded

 

No opinion

2007 Mar 23-25

30%

58

11

36. Next, I'm going to read a list of steps individuals can take to reduce global warming. Please say for each if that is something you, personally, should or should not be doing. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. Using only fluorescent light bulbs in your home

           

 

Should be doing

Should not
be doing

DOES NOT
APPLY
(vol.)

 

No opinion

2007 Mar 23-25

69%

27

1

3

B. Installing a solar panel to produce energy for your home

           

 

Should be doing

Should not
be doing

DOES NOT
APPLY
(vol.)

 

No opinion

2007 Mar 23-25

71%

27

1

1

C. Unplugging your TV, computer, or other electronic equipment when you are not using it

 

Should be doing

Should not
be doing

DOES NOT
APPLY
(vol.)

 

No opinion

2007 Mar 23-25

57%

39

1

2

D. Buying a hybrid car

           

 

Should be doing

Should not
be doing

DOES NOT
APPLY
(vol.)

 

No opinion

2007 Mar 23-25

62%

33

1

4

E. Supporting the construction of a nuclear energy plant within 20 miles of your home

           

 

Should be doing

Should not
be doing

DOES NOT
APPLY
(vol.)

 

No opinion

2007 Mar 23-25

34%

62

1

3

F. Spending several thousand dollars to make your home as energy efficient as possible

           

 

Should be doing

Should not
be doing

DOES NOT
APPLY
(vol.)

 

No opinion

2007 Mar 23-25

78%

19

2

1

G. Riding mass transit such as buses and subways whenever possible

           

 

Should be doing

Should not
be doing

DOES NOT
APPLY
(vol.)

 

No opinion

2007 Mar 23-25

77%

18

5

1

37. Now, I'm going to read a list of steps the government can take to reduce global warming. Please say for each if that is something the government should or should not be doing. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. Imposing restrictions on U.S. industries and utilities that are so tough it would put some of them out of business

           

 

Should be doing

Should not
be doing

 

No opinion

2007 Mar 23-25

38%

58

3

B. Banning vehicles that do not average at least 30 miles per gallon

           

 

Should be doing

Should not
be doing

 

No opinion

2007 Mar 23-25

44%

55

2

C. Requiring a surcharge on the utility bills of home and business owners that exceed monthly limits on energy usage

           

 

Should be doing

Should not
be doing

 

No opinion

2007 Mar 23-25

46%

52

2

D. Setting strict land use policies to discourage suburban sprawl and encourage people to live in more densely populated areas

           

 

Should be doing

Should not
be doing

 

No opinion

2007 Mar 23-25

36%

60

3

E. Requiring government office buildings to use renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind power, even if it results in higher taxes

           

 

Should be doing

Should not
be doing

 

No opinion

2007 Mar 23-25

60%

38

2

F. Starting a major research effort costing up to $30 billion per year to develop new sources of energy

           

 

Should be doing

Should not
be doing

 

No opinion

2007 Mar 23-25

65%

33

2

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