The survey also reported that 48 percent of Trump voters believe renewable energy should be a greater national priority, as opposed to 93 percent of respondents who voted for Clinton.
The survey sampled 707 adults total, including respondents from each of the 50 states, in November and December of 2016. The survey addressed a variety of issues related to science and the environment, including questions on energy, the existence of climate change and its effects on the planet.
In general, it found that Trump voters’ responses on climate issues differed substantially from not only the responses of Clinton voters, but also those of the population as a whole. The survey asked respondents if they thought certain actions should be priorities for the United States in terms of combating climate change, with the option to rate each action as a high, medium, low or non-priority. Just 34 percent of respondents who voted for Trump said renewable energy should be a high priority, compared with 79 percent of all other respondents. And 34 percent of Trump voters said green lifestyle changes should be a high priority, compared with 63 percent of all others.
Overall, the survey found that about 65 percent of respondents believe in human-caused climate change. This is a slightly higher number than has been reported in other recent surveys. A study from the Pew Research Center last October found that about 48 percent of U.S. adults believe climate change is caused by human activity.
Regardless of variations in the exact numbers, however, many previous surveys have indicated that beliefs about climate change are largely divided along political lines. The Pew survey, for instance, reported that 15 percent of conservative Republicans believe in human-caused climate change, compared with 79 percent of liberal Democrats. And a broad analysis published last year in the journal Nature Climate Change compiled all the existing literature on climate beliefs at the time and concluded that political beliefs, worldviews and values were the greatest predictors of a person’s beliefs about climate change.
Since taking office just two weeks ago, the Trump administration has already drastically altered the White House’s approach to climate change. Web pages devoted to the issue of global warming from both the White House and State Department websites have been archived, and the administration has promised to roll back a variety of Obama-era climate policies. (In fact, the Republican-controlled Congress has already begun this process by moving to overturn a handful of environmental regulations passed by the Obama administration.) Multiple Trump advisers and Cabinet members have expressed doubt about the extent of human-caused climate change, and Trump himself has vacillated at various points from overt climate denial to a weak assertion that “nobody really knows” whether climate change is real.
But while the new survey indicates the Trump administration’s stance on climate change is in line with the views of people who voted for Trump, it also suggests that this position is out of step with the views of a majority of other Americans. In a summary of the findings, University of New Hampshire sociologist Lawrence Hamilton noted the precarious position of the United States when it comes to both climate beliefs and climate action.
“Although public recognition and sense of urgency lag behind science, they are measurably rising,” he wrote. “Given the outcome of the 2016 election, however, and the belief patterns seen in these surveys, the willingness of the United States to respond is in question.”