Climate change and global warming remain hotly debated topics in the headlines, not only among the country’s lawmakers, but also within religious communities.
Conflicting perceptions of the reality of these issues are part of the reason they are so contested. To see how the general public feels on the matter, PRRI’s climate change survey asked Americans if they thought the earth had been warming over the past few decades—and if they responded “yes,” what they thought was causing it.
Nearly half (46 percent) of Americans say the earth is getting warmer and that these changes are primarily the result of human activity. Another quarter (25 percent) say that the earth is getting warmer, but report that they think this change is due to natural fluctuations in the earth’s environment or they’re unsure of the cause. About one quarter (26 percent) say that there is no evidence that the earth’s temperature has been rising over the last few decades.
There are significant partisan divides on this question, which has repeatedly lead to political gridlock on climate change legislation. Democrats are nearly three times as likely as Republicans to say the earth is warming and humans are to blame—65 percent vs. 22 percent, respectively. Correspondingly, Republicans are over three times as likely as Democrats to say there is no evidence the earth is warming—46 percent vs. 13 percent, respectively.
Religious traditions also show differences. While two-thirds (66 percent) of Jewish Americans and around six in ten (57 percent) religiously unaffiliated Americans say that human activity is causing the earth to warm, only one-quarter (27 percent) of white evangelical Protestants say the same. Here’s an in-depth breakdown of Catholics’ views on climate change.
Of the one-quarter of Americans who don’t think the earth is getting warmer, one-third (33 percent) say it’s because the weather hasn’t changed or it’s still cold outside. About two in ten (18 percent) say the earth isn’t getting warmer because the temperature varies naturally; 12 percent say there is conflicting or insufficient scientific evidence; and five percent say it’s because news reports and research on the topic are false. Two percent say the earth is not getting warmer because God is in control.
For more on Americans’ attitudes about climate change, read the PRRI/AAR Religion, Values, and Climate Change survey.