Poll: Americans' belief in global warming cools

The number of Americans who believe there is solid evidence that the Earth is warming because of pollution is at its lowest point in three years, according to a survey released Thursday.

The poll of 1,500 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that only 57 percent believe there is strong scientific evidence that the Earth has gotten warmer over the past few decades, and as a result, people are viewing the problem as less serious. That's down from 77 percent in 2006.

The steepest drop occurred during the last year, as Congress and the Obama administration have taken steps to control heat-trapping emissions for the first time. The drop also was seen during a time of mounting scientific evidence of climate change — from melting ice caps to the world's oceans hitting the highest monthly recorded temperatures this summer.

The poll was released a day after 18 scientific organizations wrote Congress to reaffirm the consensus behind global warming.

“The priority that people give to pollution and environmental concerns and a whole host of other issues is down because of the economy and because of the focus on other things,” said Andrew Kohut, the director of the research center, which conducted the poll from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4. “When the focus is on other things, people forget and see these issues as less grave.”

Despite misgivings about the science, half the respondents still said they supported limits on greenhouse gases, even if it could lead to higher energy prices. But many of those supporters have heard little to nothing about cap-and-trade, the main mechanism for reducing greenhouse gases favored by the White House and central to legislation passed by the House and a bill the Senate will take up next week.

Under cap-and-trade, a price is put on each ton of pollution and businesses can buy and sell permits to meet emissions limits.

Other results of the survey also suggest that it will be tough politically to enact a law limiting emissions of global warming pollution. While three-quarters of Democrats believe the evidence of a warming planet is solid, and nearly half believe the problem is serious, far fewer conservative and moderate Democrats see the problem as grave as they did last year.

Earlier polls, from different organizations, have not detected a growing skepticism about the science behind global warming.

Since 1997, the percentage of Americans that believe the Earth is heating up has remained constant — at around 80 percent — in polling done by Jon Krosnick of Stanford University. Krosnick, who has been conducting surveys on attitudes about global warming since 1993 was surprised by the Pew results.

He described the decline in the Pew results as “implausible,” saying there is nothing that could have caused it.

Just Posted

Dominion Voting Systems, a Denver-based vendor, is under contract to supply voting machines for elections in San Francisco. (Kevin N. Hume/Examiner file)
Is San Francisco’s elections director impeding voting machine progress?

Open source technology could break up existing monopoly

The 49ers take on the Packers in Week 3 of the NFL season, before heading into a tough stretch of divisional opponents. (Courtesy San Francisco 49ers)
‘Good for Ball’ or ‘Bad for Ball’ — A Niners analysis

By Mychael Urban Special to The Examiner What’s the first thing that… Continue reading

Health experts praised Salesforce for keeping its Dreamforce conference at Moscone Center outdoors and on a small scale. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Happy birthday, Marc Benioff. Your company did the right thing

Salesforce kept Dreamforce small, which made all kinds of sense

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, pictured with Rose Pak in 2014, says the late Chinatown activist was “helping to guide the community away from the divisions, politically.”
Willie and Rose: How an alliance for the ages shaped SF

How the Mayor and Chinatown activist shaped San Francisco, then and now

The Grove in Golden Gate Park is maintained largely by those who remember San Francisco’s 20,000 AIDS victims.<ins> (Open Eye Pictures/New York Times)</ins>
Looking at COVID through the SF prism of AIDS

AIDS took 40 years to claim 700,000 lives. COVID surpassed that number in 21 months

Most Read