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Most Americans Say Government Must Do More to Fight Climate Change

Americans remain divided along partisan lines on the causes and effects of climate change, but two-thirds agree the government should be doing more to combat it.

Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats favor a range of five initiatives to reduce the impacts of our changing planet, from taxing companies based on carbon emissions to tightening fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, according to new data from Pew Research Center. 

“There remain big divides between Republicans and Democrats on some overarching questions about climate, like how much of an impact it’s having in their local community and what role human activity plays,” said Alec Tyson, associate director of research at Pew and an author of the report. “At the same time, you see some bipartisan support for policies to address it.”

Climate Policy Support by Partisanship

Planting a trillion trees to absorb carbon emissions proved to be the policy most popular with Americans. An overwhelming 90% of respondents supported the idea, which President Donald Trump mentioned in his State of the Union address earlier this year. 

Nearly three quarters of those polled favored taxing companies based on how much carbon they emit, and 84% were in favor of giving tax credits to businesses for developing ways to capture and store carbon.

The Trump administration this year rolled back Obama-era fuel efficiency rules, but the report found that 71% of Americans support tougher standards. The administration has also loosened regulations on power plants emissions, which 80% of respondents supported. 

Despite the Trump administration’s disregard for climate science, more than half of Republicans said they were in favor of each of the five policies. Those who described themselves as conservative, however, were less likely to support those policies than those who described themselves as moderate or liberal. 

Majorities on both sides of the aisle said the U.S. should prioritize developing energy alternatives over increasing the production of fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal. 

Some partisan divides, however, remain. Over two-thirds of Democrats and those who lean towards the Democratic party said human activity is contributing to climate change, while just 22% of Republicans and those who lean towards the GOP said the same. A majority of Republicans also said their community has not been affected much or at all by climate change, whereas 83% of Democrats said it is having an impact. 

Pew Research Center surveyed more than 10,000 American adults about their opinions on climate change and the environment in April and May. This was the first time respondents were asked whether they agreed with these specific policy ideas.


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