After 48 years of Earth Day, many doubt that much environmental progress has been made

April 20, 2018, 5:00 PM GMT+0

Most Americans think they will feel the effects of climate change in their lifetime

This Sunday marks the 48th Earth Day – when Americans are meant to think about the environment. But despite its long history, in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll 20% of American adults say they have heard nothing at all about it. Twice as many who say they generally don’t pay attention to politics admit to not having heard anything about Earth Day.

There is no political difference in who is paying attention. But many Republicans step back from saying they support the Earth Day celebration. While they don’t object to Earth Day they don’t celebrate it either.

Although Democrats are more supportive of Earth Day than Republicans are, they aren’t sure that it really does much good (and on this, they agree with Republicans). Overall, only 4% say Earth Day has had “a lot” of impact on solving environmental problems. Even among those who say they will participate in Earth Day events, only 13% think Earth Day has had a lot of impact.

In fact, most don’t think there has been a lot of progress towards solving environmental problems since 1970. Only half think there has been even “some” progress.

Democrats typically worry more about the environment. 71% describe the issue of the environment as very important to them, something just 30% of Republicans believe. (Two in three Republicans say the environment as an issue is at least somewhat important).

And Republicans are not at all climate change deniers, though some GOP elected officials are. 82% of Republicans believe the world’s climate IS changing – but most of those are unwilling to attribute that change to human activity. A clear majority of the public overall is.

There has not been much change in these numbers in the last three years. Just about the same percentage in Economist/YouGov Polls during this period – six in ten – attributed climate change to human activity.

While partisanship is a major determinant of the belief in human-impacted climate change, so is thinking that you have personally seen its effects. Though only one in five Republicans say they have felt the effect of climate change, two-thirds in this group believe climate change is caused by human activity. (That is also true for the slightly larger number of Republicans who think they will feel the effects in their lifetime.] But three times as many Democrats as Republicans believe they have personally been affected by climate change. Nearly all in that group attribute climate change to human activity.

Overall, 43% of the public have felt climate change’s effects; a majority expect they will feel it in their lifetimes.

There is a sense that the U.S. government should be doing more to protect the environment. Fewer than one in five want to roll back governmental efforts to do this, although that includes about a third of Republicans. Overall, nearly half want to have the government take more actions to protect the environment. That percentage increases among those who believe they personally have seen climate change’s impact.

Read more toplines and tables results here

Photo: Getty

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