NewsMarch 6, 2013

Concern Over Climate Change Grows, Poll Finds

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By Lauren Morello

The percentage of Americans who are “alarmed” about climate change and motivated to do something about it increased to 16 percent between 2010 and 2012, according to a new poll.

That is a jump of 6 percentage point over two years, which occurred as the percentage of Americans who are skeptical of climate change or doubt that it has significant impacts fell 8 percentage points, to 8 percent.

Those findings, released Wednesday, are the latest results from the long-running “Six Americas” survey of U.S. attitudes on climate change conducted by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities.

Researchers at the two schools have been tracking changes in Americans’ perceptions of climate change since 2008, dividing the nation into six different groups, ranging from “the alarmed” to “the dismissive.”

The latest round of polling, detailed in the new report, analyzes the responses of 1,061 adults surveyed between Aug. 31 and Sept. 12, 2012. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

What is noteworthy, the “Six Americas” pollsters said, is the continued rebound of public concern about climate change, reversing what they described as “a sharp decline in public engagement” from fall 2008 to January 2010.

“The Alarmed, Concerned and Cautious audience segments once again comprise 70 percent of the American public, as they did in the fall of 2008,” during the group’s first survey, the new report said. “Morever, there was both significant growth in the size of the Alarmed and decline in the size of the Dismissive between the spring and fall of 2012.”

Earlier versions of the poll have suggested the general public is starting to link weather extremes with climate change. But the new study does not offer any hints about the effect one recent, notable extreme weather event — Hurricane Sandy — may have had on Americans’ attitudes about climate change, because the poll was conducted the month before the storm hit.

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