Stanford University professor Jon Krosnick has been studying Americans' attitudes about global warming for nearly two decades and has found in repeated polls that a large majority see climate change as a threat to future generations that should be addressed.
Krosnick provided an overview of his research Tuesday in a speech at the Rancho Mirage Public Library, showing poll numbers that have remained relatively steady over the years.
"On this particular issue, America is remarkably one-sided," said Krosnick, a professor of psychology, communication and political science. "What we've found is between two thirds and three quarters of Americans have endorsed the idea that the planet has been warming over the last hundred years, that it's due at least partly to human activity, that it poses a threat to future generations, and that the federal government in particular should take actions to reduce the amount of warming that occurs in the future and to support preparation for the effects."
Krosnick has been involved in conducting about two dozen nationwide surveys focusing on climate change since 1997. He has partnered with news organizations ranging from USA TODAY to the Washington Post to track public opinion through telephone surveys.
One of the most recent polls, which was published in January by The New York Times, found that 74 percent of Americans said the federal government should be doing a substantial amount to combat climate change.
"Americans don't seem to be flitting around unstably from one moment to the next. They seem remarkably grounded in their opinions, and remarkably on one side in a way that's unprecedented in contemporary American politics," Krosnick said. "There is very little else in the political arena that Americans agree on as much, other than, let's say, their disapproval of Congress these days. So this is an unusual case in which there is a remarkable consensus and a strong signal being sent from the public to government."
Surveys have also found that a majority of Americans favor taking action to prepare for the effects of climate change rather than waiting and responding later. Krosnick said the percentage of those who favor preparation ranged from 61 percent to 82 percent depending on how the question was phrased, with the term "increase preparedness" producing a higher number than the terms "reduce vulnerability" or "reduce risk."