Earth Day: Americans want to take action to shape climate change rather than adapt to what happens

Linley SandersSenior Data Journalist
April 22, 2021, 4:00 PM UTC

Thursday marks Earth Day, a global event that focuses on environmental protection. A new CBS News/YouGov poll finds that, when it comes to the environment and climate, the majority of Americans (58%) want to take action to shape and change it, rather than simply adapting to what happens and making the best of it (42%).

Four in five Democrats (80%) prefer to shape and change the natural world, a sentiment shared by half of Independents (54%) and one-third of Republicans (37%). Majorities of each age group also say they want to shape and change the climate's path, rather than learning to make the best of it.

While most Americans want to shape the climate, they are only willing to change some of their own behaviors to stop climate change. Most would be willing to install solar panels in their homes (64%) or drive less often (57%). But even though most would drive less frequently, only 42% would be willing to take public transit. 

Only around one-third would be willing to pay more for electricity (37% would, 63% would not), pay higher taxes (35% vs 65%), or stop eating meat (30% vs 70%). 

Most Democrats are willing to adopt each of these lifestyle changes if it would help stop climate change, except for ending meat consumption (42% would, 58% would not). Republicans are somewhat willing to install solar panels (47% say yes, 53% say no), but they express strong opposition to everything else on the list. 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this CBS News/YouGov Poll 

Methodology: This CBS News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 2,003 U.S. residents interviewed between April 13-16, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as the 2020 presidential vote and registration status. The margin of error is ± 2.8 points. 

Image: Getty