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Americans Think Climate Change is a Serious Threat—For Other People
06.01.2015

Americans think climate change will be a serious problem—just not for them. Findings from our climate change survey reveal that Americans predict others will feel the impacts of global warming much more than they themselves will.

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People in the U.S. are twice as likely to say that climate change will impact people in poorer developing countries a great deal (54 percent) than to say it will impact them personally (24 percent). To reiterate: less than one-quarter of Americans think they’ll be personally harmed a great deal by climate change.

Americans also think other Americans will be harmed more than they themselves will. Sixty-eight percent of Americans say the U.S. public overall will experience a great deal or a moderate amount of harm because of climate change, compared to 54 percent who say the same about themselves personally.

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Republicans and Democrats differ markedly in their perceptions of who will be harmed by climate change. Partisan differences are largest on the question of much people in developing countries will be harmed by climate change—at 70 percent, Democrats are 37 percentage points more likely than Republicans (33 percent) to say that climate change will harm people living in poorer developing countries a great deal. Democrats are also far more likely than Republicans to the say climate change will harm people in the U.S. (44 percent vs. 18 percent, respectively) and them personally (32 percent vs. 12 percent, respectively) a great deal.

Hispanic Catholics (43 percent), black Protestants (36 percent), and religiously unaffiliated Americans (29 percent) are also more likely than white mainline Protestants (17 percent), white evangelical Protestants (16 percent), Jewish Americans (14 percent), and white Catholics (13 percent) to predict that they will personally experience substantial harm because of climate change.

For more on Americans’ attitudes about climate change, read the PRRI/AAR Religion, Values, and Climate Change survey.