Gallup's annual update on Americans' attitudes toward the environment shows a public that, over the last two years, has become less worried about the threat of global warming, less convinced that its effects are already happening and more likely to believe that scientists themselves are uncertain about its occurrence.
In response to one key question, 48% of Americans now believe that the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated – up from 41% in 2009 and 31% in 1997, when Gallup first asked the question.
These results are based on the annual Gallup Social Series Environment poll, conducted March 4-7. The survey results show that the reversal in Americans' concerns about global warming that began last year has continued into this year – in some cases, reverting to the levels recorded when Gallup began tracking global warming measures more than a decade ago.
For example, the percentage of Americans who now say reports of global warming are generally exaggerated is by a significant margin the highest such reading in the 13-year history of asking the question. In 1997, 31% said global warming's effects had been exaggerated; last year, 41% said the same, and this year, the number is 48%.
A majority of Americans still agree that global warming is real, as 53% say the effects of the problem have already begun or will do so in a few years. That percentage is dwindling, however. The average American is now less convinced than at any time since 1997 that global warming's effects have already begun or will begin shortly.
Meanwhile, 35% say the effects of global warming either will never happen (19%) or will not happen in their lifetimes (16%).
In similar fashion, the percentage of Americans who believe that global warming is going to affect them or their way of life in their lifetimes has dropped to 32% from a 40% high point in 2008. Two-thirds of Americans say global warming will not affect them in their lifetimes.
The shift in these views during the past two years has been particularly striking. The percentage who said global warming would pose a serious threat increased gradually from 1997 through 2008. The trend in these responses changed course last year, with slightly fewer Americans saying global warming would have a significant effect in their lifetimes. This year, that percentage is down even more, marking a six-point drop from 2009, and roughly similar to where it was nine years ago.