RFF/Stanford Polling Shows Significant Support for Climate Action on both Policy and Political Fronts


April 15, 2015

News Type

Press Release

WASHINGTON—Resources for the Future (RFF) today made public previously unreleased polling data on American attitudes regarding climate change. The data consistently show widespread support among the public for climate change action and widespread support for policies such as cap-and-trade programs and carbon taxes.

Today's data were presented to the media at a National Press Club availability sponsored by RFF. The presentation was conducted by Dr. Jon Krosnick of Stanford University, an RFF university fellow. Dr. Krosnick, a foremost expert on public views of climate change, has been conducting surveys on the issue since 1995 and is now director of the Political Psychology Research Group at Stanford.

"These data can hold implications for upcoming elections and the UN meeting in December on international climate treaty negotiations," Dr. Krosnick said. "Politicians and policymakers are well-advised to keep a finger on the pulse of the public."

Some of the data on climate views were gathered in partnership with the New York Times, Stanford, and RFF and are being released by RFF today for the first time. All data, including the new results released today, are available at www.rff.org/climatesurvey.

Items of interest from that research are highlighted below:

  • Of those surveyed, 61 percent favor the federal government requiring companies to pay a tax for every ton of greenhouse gases put out. 35 percent do not.
  • When asked "Do you think that the United States doing things to reduce global warming in the future would hurt or help the economy or have no effect?," 30 percent said hurt, 42 percent said help, and 24 percent said no effect.
  • 66 percent said they'd be more likely to vote for a candidate whose message is that climate change is happening and needs to be addressed by new ways of generating energy. 13 percent said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate whose message is to spend no effort on climate change and expand continued use of coal and oil.
  • 16 percent of respondents identified the environment and climate change as the most serious problem facing the world in the future if nothing is done to address it----the number one concern on a list of issues including terrorism, crime, poverty, and the economy.
  • Large majorities of self-identified political independents were attracted to a candidate who endorsed efforts to reduce future emissions and were turned off by a candidate who expressed skepticism about climate change.
  • 75 percent of Americans agreed that the United States should take action on global warming even if other major industrial countries do less. 12 percent said we should take action only if other countries also do so.

The surveys were conducted on January 7-22 and involved 1,006 respondents nationwide with a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonprofit research institution in Washington, DC. Its mission is to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement. RFF is committed to being the most widely trusted source of research insights and policy solutions leading to a healthy environment and a thriving economy.

Unless otherwise stated, the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and may differ from those of other RFF experts, its officers, or its directors. RFF does not take positions on specific legislative proposals.

For more information, please see our media resources page or contact Media Relations and Communications Specialist Annie McDarris.

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