New Survey Results: A Staggering 94 Percent of Americans Believe Global Warming is Real

Earth climate change
Clouds can both cool the planet (by reflecting visible light from the sun) and warm the planet (by absorbing heat radiation emitted by the surface). On balance, clouds slightly cool the Earth. (NASA Astronaut Photograph STS31-E-9552 courtesy Johnson space Center Earth Observations Lab.)

According to a new survey released today by Nat Geo WILD and Kelton Global, an overwhelming 94 percent of Americans believe that global warming is real — and 87 percent think that human activity at least contributes to , if not is primarily responsible for it. These national survey results show the highest percentages to date1, and suggest that climate change is affecting most Americans’ daily habits, lifestyle choices and even political decisions.

The survey shows that more Democrats (89 percent) than Republicans (69 percent) say environmental issues are important when helping them decide which presidential candidate to support, and that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton lead as the presidential candidates Americans think would be the best environmental advocates. This bodes well for those candidates, as 80 percent of Americans say that this issue plays an important role when deciding their next president. Donald Trump came in third in the poll, followed by Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

“While its no surprise that global warming is on the minds of many Americans these days, even our team at Nat Geo WILD was surprised at the near unanimous belief that this is an issue that affects us all,” said Geoff Daniels, executive vice president and general manager of Nat Geo WILD. “This survey shows that climate change is an issue that not only presidential candidates should address, but something that anyone running for public office should give substantial consideration to … not just for our species, but for the animal kingdom as well.”

Other highlights from the survey:

Environmentally Conscious Americans

With most of the nation agreeing that global warming is real, Americans’ daily habits are influenced by the state of the planet. Over nine in 10 Americans (94 percent) have made an effort to reduce their carbon footprint. Common steps these environmentally conscious Americans have taken include purchasing eco-friendly light bulbs (68 percent), using reusable shopping bags (66 percent) or purchasing recycled products (57 percent).

Endangered Species

A large majority (91 percent) of Americans are concerned about the extinction of endangered animals. But this worry comes with a sense of optimism. Nine in 10 (90 percent) are hopeful that the animal species on the endangered list will not become extinct. However, nearly half (45 percent) of Americans think human-driven habitat destruction has the biggest impact on animal populations, and close to a third (32 percent) believe animal poaching has the biggest effect.

Conservation Efforts

Interest and concern about endangered animals are likely why nearly 200 million Americans (81 percent) have participated in wildlife conservation efforts, and these actions are most commonly recycling (75 percent), purchasing environmentally conscious products (50 percent) or donating money (40 percent). More than one in four (27 percent) of those who participated in wildlife conservation efforts have supported a wildlife conservation cause online or on social media. And for those who have not participated in wildlife conservation efforts, lack of knowledge is likely a factor. The most common (27 percent) reason for not participating is not knowing how.

Animal Protection Efforts

Over eight in 10 (82 percent) Americans agree that zoos should exist. This is likely because zoos are seen as educational (91 percent) and fun (85 percent). While close to three in five (58 percent) Americans believe holding or displaying animals at zoos or theme parks should be legal, over four in five (83 percent) agree with SeaWorld’s decision to end captive breeding of killer whales.

Celebrity Activists

Those in the limelight have a bit of an influence on eco-friendly actions. About 76 million Americans (31 percent) say that the environmental activities of celebrities or endorsements motivate them to change their behavior regarding our planet. Ellen DeGeneres and Betty White top the list of celebrity animal activists that Americans believe do the most to help their cause, with 27 percent and 23 percent, respectively.

Presidential Election

Eight in 10 Americans (80 percent) say environmental issues play an important role when deciding which presidential candidate to support. Bernie Sanders (34 percent) and Hillary Clinton (29 percent) lead as the presidential candidates Americans think would be the best advocate for environmental issues. Nearly half (49 percent) of millennials believe this to be true about Sanders, versus 28 percent of older Americans. Older Americans are more likely to say this about Clinton (32 percent vs. 23 percent of millennials). More Americans living in the West than those living throughout the rest of the country (43 percent vs. 32 percent, respectively) believe Sanders is the candidate who would best advocate for environmental issues.

The Future of Planet Earth

Nearly a quarter (22 percent) of Americans think “The Hunger Games” best captures what Earth will look like in 100 years. Nearly one in five say this about “Star Trek” (18 percent), “Wall-E” (17 percent) and “Mad Max: Fury Road” (17 percent). However, millennials are more than twice as likely as older Americans (30 percent vs. 12 percent, respectively) to think “Wall-E” best resembles what our planet will look like in 2116, while more Americans ages 35 and over than millennials (20 percent vs. 12 percent, respectively) say this about “Star Trek.”

This survey was conducted by Kelton Global March 28-April 3, 2016, among 1,053 nationally representative Americans 18+, using an email invitation and an online survey. Quotas are set to ensure a reliable representation of the U.S. population 18 and over.

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