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Nearly Two in Three in U.S. Say Winter Was Warmer This Year

Nearly Two in Three in U.S. Say Winter Was Warmer This Year

Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • One in three attribute warmth to human-caused climate change
  • Reports of warmer winter greatest in the East, Midwest and South
  • Republicans, Democrats disagree on cause of temperature changes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The 2016-2017 winter season was among the warmest on record across most of the U.S., and many Americans felt it: Nearly two in three (64%) say that winter temperatures in their local area were "warmer than usual." More of them, 35% of all Americans, attribute the warmer weather this winter to climate change, than to normal, year-to-year temperature variations (27%).

Americans' Reports of Local Weather Changes and the Perceived Cause
Have temperatures in your local area been -- [ROTATED: colder than usual this winter, about the same (or) warmer than usual this winter]? (Asked of those who say the weather has been colder/warmer than usual:) Do you think temperatures are colder/warmer mainly due to -- [ROTATED: human-caused climate change (or to) normal year-to-year variation in temperatures]?
Warmer than usual 64
(Due to climate change) (35)
(Due to normal variation) (27)
About the same 22
Colder than usual 13
(Due to climate change) (6)
(Due to normal variation) (7)
March 1-5, 2017

While most Americans report having experienced warmer-than-usual temperatures, 22% of Americans say the winter's temperatures were "about the same," while 13% say they were "colder than usual."

These data, collected March 1-5 as part of Gallup's annual Environment poll, are similar to what Americans reported in 2016, another winter when most of the country experienced above-average temperatures.

Americans' assessments of winter temperatures, as measured each March for the past six years, have varied. In 2012, 2016 and 2017, the large majority said that temperatures were warmer than usual, while in 2014 and 2015, the view was that temperatures were colder than usual. Views in 2013 were mixed.

Generally, Americans' perceptions of temperature increases have been in line with the departure from January and February's temperature average, as recorded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


Americans in the West More Likely to Have Experienced a Colder Winter

While the Southeast Regional Climate Center found that many cities across the country -- especially in the East -- had one of their warmest winters this season, this was not the case for certain areas in the Northwest, which experienced one of their coldest winters.

This bears out in how Americans living in different regions respond to the question. Large majorities of adults living in the East (82%), Midwest (78%) and South (73%) reported experiencing a warmer than usual winter, but just 21% of residents in the West said the same. Forty percent of Western residents said temperatures in their area were colder than usual and 37% said they were about the same.

Winter Temperatures Compared With Prior Winters, by Region
  East Midwest South West
  % % % %
Colder than usual 4 7 4 40
About the same 13 15 22 37
Warmer than usual 82 78 73 21
March 1-5, 2017

Party Differences Over the Cause of Warmer Temperatures

Similar percentages of Republicans (61%), independents (64%) and Democrats (68%) say that temperatures were warmer than usual this winter. But these party groups differ over what caused the warmer temperatures.

Democrats are more inclined to attribute warmer temperatures to human-caused climate change, while Republicans generally see them as a result of normal variations in temperature.

Perceived Cause of Warmer Temperatures, by Party Groups
Among those who say temperatures have been warmer than usual this winter
  Republicans Independents Democrats
  % % %
Warmer than usual 61 64 68
(Due to climate change) 13 37 51
(Due to normal variation) 45 24 15
About the same 27 24 15
Colder than usual 11 12 16
(Due to climate change) 2 5 10
(Due to normal variation) 9 7 6
March 1-5, 2017

Bottom Line

According to NASA and the NOAA, 2016 had the warmest global surface temperature in modern record keeping. These trends appeared to carry over into the 2016-2017 winter, and a majority of Americans reported feeling the warmth.

Americans tend to attribute the unusually warm temperatures to human-caused climate change rather than normal variation in temperatures. But these perceptions are strongly influenced by one's political leanings. While Republicans and Democrats are about as likely to say the weather was warmer this season, they disagree on what caused it.

The politicization of this issue is reflected in the reversal of federal policies on climate change under the current Republican president, who is undoing many climate-conscious initiatives of his Democratic predecessor, from rewriting carbon emissions rules to minimizing the role climate change will have in decision-making across the government.

These data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 1-5, 2017, with a random sample of 1,018 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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