More severe weather, but no agreement on the role of climate change

March 14, 2019, 2:00 PM GMT+0

More than four in ten (43%) Americans say they think President Donald Trump doesn’t believe in climate change at all

Wildfires in California, tornadoes in Alabama, and winter storms hitting the Midwest. To nearly half of the country in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, severe weather is the result of climate change. But more than a third view the latest weather as simply something that happens from time to time.

There is an increasing belief that climate change is affecting weather. One year ago, after an earlier round of winter storms and fires, the public was divided on whether or not climate change plays a role in severe weather. Now, Democrats and independents are convinced it does. Republicans, however, have changed little from a year ago in how they view recent weather events.

President Donald Trump is seen by many as a climate change denier, which puts him in a position that differs from the country as a whole, and even members of his own party. Most Republicans agree that climate change is occurring, but believe it is a phenomenon that has little to do with human activity. However, a majority of Americans overall believe that climate change is due to human activity, a position that much scientific research supports.

Republicans worry less about the impact of climate change than other Americans do. Over half (57%) of the total population believes the U.S. has already been harmed by it, nearly twice the percentage of Republicans (30%) who say that. While over six in ten (62%) Americans overall say they’re very or somewhat worried that the US will be harmed by climate change in the next 50 years, only 41% of Republicans say the same.

The government and President get good marks for their handling of some climate crises, poor marks in how they have dealt with others. The response to the recent tornadoes in Alabama is praised, while the reaction to 2017’s Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is criticized. While party identification matters in how the President is judged in both cases, all groups see his handling of the Alabama tornadoes better than his handling of Hurricane Maria.

The environment as an issue matters much more to Democrats than to Republicans. Three in four Democrats call it “very important” to them, something just 34% of Republicans say. The environment ranks below health care as the Democrats’ most important issue (26% of Democrats rank health care as most important, 17% name the environment). Only 1% of Republicans cite the environment as the most important issue, while nearly a third (31%) name immigration.

See full toplines and tables results here.

Image: Getty

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