Some Americans are cooling off on global warming

June 19, 2013
Contact: Greta Guest

A snowy outdoor scene. Image credit: user BeverlyLRANN ARBOR—A complaint-worthy winter has led to a drop in the number of Americans who believe that global warming is real, according to a University of Michigan survey.

The percentage of Americans surveyed who think there is solid evidence of global warming remained at a majority, or 63 percent, in the spring. That’s down from 67 percent surveyed last fall, which was the highest since 2008.

“This drop suggests that the solid rebound in acceptance of global warming among Americans observed in recent surveys has, at least temporarily, ended,” said Barry Rabe, director of the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at U-M’s Ford School of Public Policy.

The results come from the National Surveys on Energy and Environment, a joint effort of U-M and the Muhlenberg Institute of Public Opinion at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa.

“The fairly cold winter and slow arriving spring weather this year appears to have contributed to a slight decline in the number of Americans that think global warming is happening,” said Chris Borick, the survey’s co-author and director of the Muhlenberg Institute.

The telephone survey of 852 Americans between April 1 and April 14 had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points either way.

Other findings include:

  • Of the 22 percent of Americans who do not think there is evidence of global warming, a growing number cite their personal observations of cold and snowy winter conditions as the primary factor influencing this belief (31 percent versus 18 percent last fall).
  • Among Americans who express doubt about the existence of global warming, 16 percent cite religious factors as the primary reason for their skepticism, compared to less than 1 percent in fall 2008.
  • The spring results provide continuing evidence that while weather conditions may play a role in shifting individual positions on the existence of global warming, more often they tend to confirm existing beliefs on the presence or absence of global warming.


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