Less than Half of Americans Believe Humans are Cause of Global Climate Change

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – April 10, 2014 – It’s something everyone complains about – it’s too hot or it’s too cold; it’s too snowy/rainy or it’s too dry. Weather is the great equalizer and as winter finally (hopefully) makes its way into spring, it’s interesting to note that over three-quarters of Americans (77%) say they prefer summer over winter. In looking back at the winter that just came to a close, Americans in each region of the country feel differently about what was. When it comes to the temperature, almost nine in ten Midwesterners (88%) and over four in five Easterners (84%) say it was colder than normal, as do 71% of those in the South. In the West, they are a little more divided as 45% believe it was warmer than normal, one-third (33%) say it was about the same as normal and one in five (18%) say it was colder than normal.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,234 adults surveyed online between March 12 and 17, 2014.

    There is a similar feeling when it comes to the precipitation. Around three-quarters of those in the Midwest (77%) and East (73%) say the rain or snow in their area (and it was mostly snow!) was more than normal. In the South, half (49%) say the rain or snow was more than normal, one-third (34%) believe it was about the same as normal and 15% say it was less than normal. In the drought stricken West, more than three in five (62%) say the rain or snow was less than normal this winter.

    Is it climate change?

    When those who said that the temperature and/or precipitation are asked if the differences this winter were due to global climate change, half say yes – but one-quarter (24%) say the difference was definitely caused by global climate change and one-quarter (26%) say maybe it was caused by it. Almost two in five Americans (38%) say no, it wasn’t and 13% are not sure. There is a generational difference, as Millennials are more likely than Matures to say that the changes are definitely due to global climate change (28% vs. 18%) and maybe due to it (31% vs. 22%). Matures, on the other hand, are more likely than Millennials to say that the changes are not due to global climate change (47% vs. 31%). Also, while the past winter may have been rough in much of the country, almost seven in ten Americans (69%) do not believe that the severity of this past winter is proof that global climate change is not happening.

    Looking at overall feelings on global climate change, nearly half of Americans (45%) believe it exists and that humans are the main cause. Three in ten U.S. adults (30%) believe global climate change exists but that its causes are mainly not related to humans, while 13% do not believe it exists and 12% are unsure. There is a strong political division on this, as two-thirds of Democrats (65%) believe global warming exists and humans are the main cause while 20% say it exists, but the causes aren’t related to humans and 5% do not believe it exists. Among Republicans almost half (45%) believe it exists, but the causes of global climate change are not related to humans, 23% do not believe it exists and 22% say global climate change exists and humans are the main cause.

    Blame the weatherman?

    One group to feel sorry for this past winter had to be the meteorologists. They were the ones who had to talk about the polar vortex and the latest snow storm or, in the West, another week without any rain. Americans are divided on their attitudes towards this group of professionals. Over half (54%) think meteorologists are just guessing a lot of the time while 46% disagree with this. Almost three in five Gen Xers (58%) and Baby Boomers (58%) agree that meteorologists are just guessing a lot of the time, compared to half of Matures (50%) and Millennials (49%).

    Click here for a look at American attitudes about being green.

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    TABLE 1

    TEMPERATURES THIS PAST WINTER

    Thinking of this past winter, that is the one just coming to an end, do you think the temperatures in your area wereÉ?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Region

    East

    Midwest

    South

    West

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Warmer than normal

    14

    2

    2

    7

    45

    About the same as normal

    19

    12

    9

    21

    33

    Colder than normal

    65

    84

    88

    71

    18

    Not sure

    2

    2

    2

    1

    3

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2

    PRECIPITATION THIS PAST WINTER

    Still thinking of this past winter, do you think the rain or snow in your area wasÉ?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Region

    East

    Midwest

    South

    West

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    More than normal

    51

    73

    77

    49

    11

    About the same as normal

    26

    22

    16

    34

    26

    Less than normal

    21

    4

    6

    15

    62

    Not sure

    2

    1

    1

    2

    2

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 3

    GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE AND CHANGES THIS WINTER

    Do you believe the difference this winter was because of global climate change?

    Base: Thought temperature or precipitation were different

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Millennial (18-36)

    Gen X (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    Men

    Women

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Yes, definitely

    24

    28

    23

    23

    18

    21

    26

    Yes, maybe

    26

    31

    22

    26

    22

    24

    28

    No

    38

    31

    37

    40

    47

    43

    32

    Not sure

    13

    11

    18

    11

    13

    11

    14

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 4

    GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE CAUSED BY HUMANS OR NOT

    Which of these best describes your feelings towards global climate change?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Political Party

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen X (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    Men

    Women

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    I believe it exists and humans are the main cause

    45

    50

    47

    43

    37

    45

    46

    22

    65

    45

    I believe it exists but that its causes are mainly not related to humans

    30

    27

    24

    31

    41

    34

    26

    45

    20

    29

    I do not believe it exists

    13

    8

    13

    18

    14

    12

    13

    23

    5

    13

    Unsure

    12

    15

    16

    9

    8

    9

    16

    10

    11

    12

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 5

    ATTITUDES ON THE WEATHER

    How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: All adults

    AGREE (NET)

    Strongly agree

    Somewhat agree

    DISAGREE (NET)

    Somewhat disagree

    Strongly disagree

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    I prefer summer over winter

    77

    43

    34

    23

    14

    9

    I think meteorologists are just guessing a lot of the time

    54

    16

    39

    46

    29

    16

    The severity of this past winter is proof that global climate change is not happening

    31

    9

    23

    69

    32

    36

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE6

    ATTITUDES ON THE WEATHER – By Generation

    How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Percent saying Strongly/Somewhat Agree

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen X (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    I prefer summer over winter

    77

    70

    80

    79

    86

    I think meteorologists are just guessing a lot of the time

    54

    49

    58

    58

    50

    The severity of this past winter is proof that global climate change is not happening

    31

    29

    28

    34

    37

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 12 and 17, 2014 among 2,234 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

    Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

    The Harris Poll #35, April 10, 2014

    By Regina A. Corso, SVP, The Harris Poll and Public Relations Research

    About Nielsen & The Harris Poll

    On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.