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Americans' Views on Climate Change Compared to Other Advanced Economies

Concerns about Personal Impacts of Climate Change

As the next United Nations Climate Change Conference approaches (COP26), people in advanced economies are highly concerned about the personal impact of climate change and are willing to make changes to address the issue with personal and international action, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Americans are also worried about the personal impacts of climate change, but they are not as concerned as other publics surveyed.

There is minimal praise from other societies for how the United States and China – both leading carbon dioxide emitters – are handling climate change, even as the European Union and the UN are given high marks for their actions. But within American society, there are sharp ideological divides on the issue, more so than in other nations.

Here are four charts that highlight how Americans’ views on climate change differ from views in other advanced economies.

This Pew Research Center analysis focuses on attitudes toward global climate change in the United States and how that compares to views around the world. For this analysis, we conducted nationally representative surveys of 16,254 adults from March 12 to May 26, 2021, in 16 advanced economies. All surveys were conducted over the phone with adults in Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.

Everyone who took part in the U.S. survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories.

This study was conducted in countries where nationally representative telephone surveys are feasible. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, face-to-face interviewing is not currently possible in many parts of the world.

Here are the questions used for the report, along with responses. Visit our methodology database for more information about the survey methods outside the U.S. For respondents in the U.S., read more about the ATP’s methodology.

In general, a smaller share of U.S. adults are concerned about the personal impacts of climate change than are people in other advanced economies surveyed in spring 2021. Six-in-ten U.S. adults say that they are concerned that global climate change will harm them personally, compared with a median of 72% who say the same across the 17 publics. However, 74% of Americans are willing to make a lot or some changes in their lifestyles to deal with climate change, closer to the eight-in-ten median who say that elsewhere.

Willingness to Make Lifestyle Changes

When it comes to rating their own society’s role in dealing with climate change, Americans are slightly less likely than people elsewhere to say their own government is handling it well. But there are similar levels of confidence among Americans and their counterparts abroad about the international community’s ability to deal with the climate crisis.

And while a third of Americans say that actions taken internationally to combat climate change, like the Paris climate agreement, will harm the economy, about a third say these actions will benefit it and around a third say there will be no impact. However, Americans are the most likely across the 17 publics surveyed to say that actions like those envisioned by the Paris climate accord, which President Joe Biden recently rejoined, will harm their economy.

Americans are more positive on the United States’ track record on climate change than people in the other advanced economies surveyed. A median of 36% across the 17 societies surveyed say the U.S. is doing a good job of dealing with climate change, compared with the 47% of Americans who say the same. Interestingly, only in Singapore do more people give the U.S. high marks for its actions (53% say this).

Americans are much closer to the rest of the world on how they rate the actions of the EU, the UN and China on their climate actions. In general, more Americans than not say that the EU and the UN are doing a good job dealing with the climate issue, and most in the other publics surveyed agree. However, only 18% of Americans and people in advanced economies say that China is doing a good job of dealing with climate change.

U.S. adults on different sides of the ideological spectrum are often sharply divided in their views of how different countries and international actors are responding to climate change. The ideological difference is most stark when evaluating how the U.S. is handling climate change. While 67% of conservatives in the U.S. say the country is doing a good job, only 26% of liberals agree. This is the largest ideological difference among all the countries surveyed and much larger than the median difference across the 14 countries where there are comparable ideological categories. However, on China, the ideological differences are virtually nonexistent, both in the U.S. and around the world.

U.S. conservatives are less enthusiastic about how the EU and the UN are responding to climate change than liberals. Conservatives are 18 percentage points less likely than U.S. adults on the left to say the EU is doing a good job responding to climate change, and 22 points less likely to say the UN is doing a good job. In comparison, adults on either side of the ideological spectrum in other countries generally give both international organizations similarly positive ratings.

Confidence in the international community to reduce the effects of climate change is divided sharply along partisan lines in the U.S. Democrats and independents who lean toward the Democratic Party are more likely than Republicans and GOP leaners to express confidence that actions taken by the international community will significantly reduce the effects of global climate change. While 45% of the U.S. public holds this view, roughly two-thirds (65%) of Democrats say they are very or somewhat confident in international action. Similar shares of both liberal Democrats and their conservative and moderate counterparts hold this view.

In comparison, just 23% of Republicans are confident the international community’s actions will reduce the effects of climate change. However, about four-in-ten moderate and liberal Republicans say they are confident in international action, while just 14% of conservative Republicans say the same.

Similarly, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say that international actions such as the Paris climate agreement will mostly benefit the American economy (50% vs. 11%, respectively). Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say the opposite: that international action to address climate change will mostly harm the domestic economy (63% vs. 11%, respectively).

Note: Here are the questions used for the report, along with responses. Visit our methodology database for more information about the survey methods outside the U.S. For respondents in the U.S., read more about the ATP’s methodology.

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