Climate change is becoming such a growing concern across the globe that some even call it a climate emergency or a climate crisis. Despite having an administration that denies the phenomena, it looks like the general concern is spreading to the American people too.

The Pew Research Center conducted a national survey with 1,504 adults during January 2020 using cellphones and landlines. Among other interesting findings, the survey revealed environmental protection is a growing concern among Americans.

In fact, the renowned think tank says this survey was the first one in approximately 20 years showing environmental protection is nearly as important as strengthening the economy. The results show 64% of the people surveyed agreed that protecting the environment should be a top policy priority, compared to 67% who thought the same regarding growing the economy.

In this regard, among 18 top policy concerns, another worry that saw significant growth was climate change. 52% was the percentage of people who thought dealing with global climate change should be a top priority – compared to 38% in 2017. An interesting increase, then.

Other Issues Worry The American Public And Climate Change Is Susceptible To Political Views

americans concerned climate change
Image credits: Pew Research Center

Looking at the total scores in the image above, terrorism, i.e. defending the US against terrorism is the general public’s top priority to be addressed by Congress this year. Afterward, restoring the economy is the second top policy priority of the public, tied with other priorities such as decreasing health care costs and improving the educational system. All these three were named as top policy priorities by 67% of the people surveyed.

Not 67% but 64% was the percentage of people claiming environmental protection should be a top policy priority, followed by 63% thinking the same about the importance of improving the social security system.

When speaking about issues such as protecting ecosystems or reducing greenhouse gas emissions, partisanship plays a fundamental role. In fact, with only 21% calling it a top priority, fighting global climate change is the least of the concerns of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. On the other hand, 78% of Democrats and Democratic leaners find climate change a top priority.

In the end, it looks like both these political views find different issues a priority. While most Democrats find environmental protection issues a top priority, together with health care costs, education, and poverty, Republicans are more concerned with terrorism, immigration, and gun policy.

There are, however, issues on which both political sides can agree on. Because while strengthening the economy was a top priority for the president and Congress according to 88% of Republicans and 87% of Democrats in 2011, these numbers have significantly decreased for both to numbers between 61-74% this year.

Views Of The Environment And Climate Change Vary Depending On Age And Gender

climate change concerns youth
Image credits: Pew Research Center

Another interesting conclusion of this survey is that the issues considered to be most urgent vary according to younger and older publics. Generally speaking, older people are more “likely to prioritize issues such as strengthening the military and making the social security system financially sound“.

By contrast, compared to Americans who are 65+ years old, Americans below the age of 30 are more inclined to prioritize environmental protection issues (77% vs. 55% of 65+ people). They are also more keen to reform the educational system (74% vs. 59%) and to find ways of fighting with climate change (61% vs. 45%).

Also curious is the fact that women prioritize different policy goals than men. Women are 16% more likely than men to find dealing with climate change a top priority (60% vs. 44% of men) – which is also true for environmental concerns (69% vs 59% of men).

Moreover, while 56% of women find dealing with gun policy a top priority, only about a third of men share these concerns. Women are also, generally speaking, more concerned with prioritizing the decrease of health care costs, improving jobs and reducing poverty. On their turn, men are more likely to privilege immigration or global trade issues.

Environmental And Climate Change Issues: A Growing Priority Among The American Public

This research shows that despite being subjective to factors such as age, gender or political view, climate change is increasingly a priority in the American people’s agenda.

To this regard, it worth highlighting that despite Democrats being more worried about this issue, the percentage of Republicans considering environmental protection as a major priority saw an 8 points increase from last year to 39%. According to the Pew Research Center, this represents the largest share of Republicans sharing this view considering their surveys during the past decade.

A little everywhere it is becoming increasingly obvious that our climate is changing as extreme weather events become more frequent and devastating. In fact, the Guardian even speaks of a new phenomenon of climate anxiety.

It is important that all actors involved in society’s current functioning model are aware of the problem to be able to do something about it. While companies need to develop CSR and sustainability strategies, governments need to implement bold policies that promote more responsible businesses and more resilient cities. As for citizens, they first need to recognize the urgency of the problem to then consume more responsibly and to actively engage at different levels and contribute to tackling the climate emergency.

[Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash]