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Legacy Content / POLL TRACK

Waning Warming Debate

Americans Aim To Reduce Carbon Footprints, Despite Drop In Concern For Climate Change

August 11, 2008

For all the recent coverage of the pollution surrounding Beijing's Olympic Games, global warming has gotten relatively little attention, whether on the nightly news or on the campaign trail. While the majority of Americans still say they consider climate change a serious issue, a new poll suggests public concern over the issue has ebbed since last year.

Also On NationalJournal.comAd Spotlight: "Gore's Plan Gets Another Push During Olympics."

According to a survey [PDF] from ABC News, Planet Green and Stanford University, fewer than half -- 47 percent -- of Americans consider global warming an important issue to them personally, down from 52 percent in April 2007. Although a vast majority still think the planet is warming -- 8 in 10 respondents -- that figure is also down from last year, having dropped 4 percentage points. Furthermore, in an open-ended question, the number of respondents who called global warming the biggest environmental challenge facing the world fell 8 points from 2007 and currently hovers at 25 percent.

According to an analysis by ABC News' Gary Langer, the drop in these numbers coincides with decreased media attention to climate change, in favor of the election and economy. "A database search finds 50 percent fewer news stories on global warming in the month before this poll was conducted, compared with the month before last year's survey," Langer wrote.

 

That dimmer media spotlight could explain respondents' lack of knowledge about how John McCain and Barack Obama measure up on global warming. About 8 in 10 respondents said they knew little or nothing about the candidates' positions on the issue. Nevertheless, the Democratic contender has a clear advantage: Fifty-five percent of respondents said Obama would do a better job of reducing global warming, while only 23 percent said so of the GOP nominee.

Respondents split evenly when pollsters asked whether government-led or market-based solutions would do a better job of reducing global warming, but they did favor government measures such as a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions.

Americans appear to be holding themselves responsible as well for the energy crisis. About 7 in 10 respondents said they're attempting to reduce their carbon footprint, by driving less, using less electricity and recycling.

But despite the overwhelming consensus that global warming is indeed occurring, doubt over the science behind the issue is still lingers strongly in people's minds. Only 30 percent of ABC News respondents said they trust what scientists have to say about the environment "completely" or "a lot," with 39 percent saying they trust them "a moderate amount" and 30 percent saying they do not trust them. On top of that, nearly 60 percent of respondents said there is "a lot of disagreement" within the scientific community as to how dangerous climate change is.

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