Over Half of US Adults Support Government Action on Climate Change

Man with red jacket on board ship in the Arctic during winter
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A new survey from The Balance on President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) plan reports that 58% of Americans surveyed think the government should work to stop climate change. In addition, just over 40% of the respondents agree that climate change is an important issue to them, while environmental conservation and clean energy were among the 10 most popular BBB proposals in the survey. 

Under the Biden administration, the U.S. has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas pollution by about 50% below 2005 levels by 2030. Reaching this goal could reduce household energy costs by about $500 each year, according to a report by independent research and analytics firm Rhodium Group. The report claims that government action is key to reaching the 2030 goal, and a lack of congressional action could jeopardize it.

Key Takeaways

  • 58% of U.S. adults surveyed by The Balance said the government should work to stop climate change. 
  • 67% of those surveyed back investment in coastal restoration and forest management, and it was the fifth most popular policy in the survey.
  • Clean energy was one of the most contentious points between conservative and liberal survey respondents. 

Along with energy costs, property value, air quality, and land management may also be major factors in many Americans' support of climate policies. Investment in coastal restoration and forest management was the fifth most popular policy, earning 67% support from respondents. Meanwhile, only 10% of respondents somewhat or strongly opposed these investments. 

Fees for large oil and gas companies that leak methane into the atmosphere was also in the top 10, with almost two-thirds of those surveyed supporting the policy. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is 80 times more potent at warming the planet over a 20-year period than carbon dioxide.

When asked for their thoughts on BBB clean energy policy proposals, 62% supported tax credits and grants for U.S. businesses to build clean energy technology (such as solar panels, electric cars, and wind turbines) using domestic materials. Investing in energy-efficient infrastructure such as cleaner transit, buses, and trucks was also supported by 62% of those surveyed. 

Climate change has caused an unprecedented increase in natural disasters and extreme weather events across the nation. In 2021 alone, the U.S. experienced 20 natural disasters that cost over $1 billion each—a total of $145 billion. Wildfires in 2021 burned a total of 7.1 million acres across Western U.S. states, and cost $10.6 billion in damages, disrupting businesses and destroying homes.

The climate policy proposal with the least support, however, was the offering of up to $12,500 in tax credits for buying an electric vehicle, with 48% of respondents saying they somewhat or strongly support it. 

Geographically speaking, those living in western U.S. states said they were more concerned about climate change than those in southern states. In fact, almost half (45%) of those living in the West say they’re worried about climate change, compared to only 39%  of those in the South and Midwest. 

Political Divide on Energy Proposals 

In The Balance’s survey of over 1,800 U.S. adults, over a third (36%) of respondents identified their political affiliation as conservative, while nearly a quarter said they are liberal. The rest consider themselves independent, with more leaning conservative than liberal.

While environmental policy proposals in the BBB plan were generally popular, the political divide among survey respondents was reflected particularly in issues such as the environment. Clean energy was one of the most contentious points, with a 25 percentage point difference between the answers of conservative and liberal respondents. 

To elaborate, nearly two-thirds of liberal Americans backed tax credits up to $12,500 for purchasing an electric vehicle, while only 38%% of conservatives supported the policy. Investment in clean energy infrastructure was another policy idea with a large gap between the groups, with 76% of liberals supporting the policy compared to 52% of conservatives. 

However, investment in coastal restoration, forest management, and soil conservation was one of the more favorable policy proposals among conservatives, with 60% of support from conservative U.S. adults who took the survey. 

Younger Generations Care Most About Climate Change

The survey results showed that younger generations care more about climate change, with almost half of Gen Z (ages 18 to 25) and 44% of Millennials (ages 26 to 41) choosing it as an issue that is important to them. Meanwhile, only 37% of Gen X (ages 42 to 57) and 41% of Boomers (ages 58 to 76) marked climate change as an issue that was important to them. 

The majority of Gen Z (65%), Millennials (62%) and Gen X (60%) say they think the federal government should work to stop climate change compared to just 49% of Boomers. Furthermore, 3 in 4 Millennials say they're at least somewhat concerned about climate change, followed by 69% of Gen Z, 68% of Gen X and 60% of Boomers. 

Methodology

The Balance surveyed 1,800 U.S. adults (aged 18+) from Feb. 8 to Feb. 13, 2022. The survey was fielded online via a self-administered questionnaire to an opt-in panel of respondents from a market research vendor. Respondents were required to be eligible to vote to qualify. Quotas were used to ensure national representation for generation, gender, race/ethnicity, and region using estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau 2019 American Community Survey as a benchmark.

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