skip to main content
Global Warming Age Gap: Younger Americans Most Worried

Global Warming Age Gap: Younger Americans Most Worried

Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 70% of Americans age 18 to 34 worry about global warming
  • This compares with 62% of those 35 to 54 and 56% who are 55 or older

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Public concern about global warming is evident across all age groups in the U.S., with majorities of younger and older Americans saying they worry about the problem a great deal or fair amount. However, the extent to which Americans take global warming seriously and worry about it differs markedly by age, with adults under age 35 typically much more engaged with the problem than those 55 and older.

Americans' Attitudes About Global Warming, by Age
18 to 34 35 to 54 55 and older Age gap (18 to 34 minus 55+)
% % % pct. pts.
Think global warming will pose a serious threat in your lifetime 51 47 29 22
Think global warming is caused by human activities 75 62 55 20
Think problem of global warming is underestimated in the news 48 38 31 17
Think most scientists believe global warming is occurring 73 69 58 15
Worry a great deal/fair amount about global warming 70 63 56 14
Think effects of global warming already begun 62 63 54 8
Understand global warming issue very/fairly well 82 80 76 6

The biggest generational gap is visible in the belief that global warming will pose a serious threat in one's own lifetime. This clearly reflects the different timeframes involved for each age group; the older one gets, the less time in one's lifetime for global warming's effects to be realized.

The second-largest age gap comes with the belief that global warming is caused by human activities.

Younger adults are also significantly more likely to think news reports on global warming underestimate the problem. They are more likely to worry about the problem and to believe there is a scientific consensus that global warming is occurring.

Younger and older Americans come closest in agreement in their views that the effects of global warming have already begun, and in self-reports of understanding global warming.

These figures are based on combined data from Gallup's annual Environment polls from 2015 to 2018.

Several Factors Most Likely Drive the Age Gap

There are several potential reasons for these generational differences surrounding climate change. One, as is evident in particular on the question about global warming's effects in one's lifetime, results from the fact that older Americans may perceive that they will no longer be living when global warming changes the world more dramatically.

Another reason results from the relationship between age and party identification. Gallup has previously found a significant partisan divide on Americans' attitudes concerning global warming. This partisan gap may be reflected in the trend by age group, with younger Americans tending to tilt toward the Democratic Party, and thus being more likely to adopt the Democratic position on global warming.

Finally, younger people may have been exposed to more discussion about climate change and the environment in their more recent education experiences, while the issue was not on the educational agenda for many Americans who were in school decades ago.

Survey Methods

Results are based on aggregated telephone interviews from four separate Gallup polls conducted from 2015 through 2018 with a random sample of 4,103 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 ±2 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.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030