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Climate Change Concerns Higher in the Northeast, West U.S.

Climate Change Concerns Higher in the Northeast, West U.S.

Story Highlights

  • Southerners, Midwesterners less likely to say global warming has begun
  • Worries about global warming higher in the East and West

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The premise of the Green New Deal being debated in Congress is that the window to combat global warming's imminent effects on the U.S. and the world is closing. But not all Americans are equally convinced of its immediate threat. Americans living in the Northeast (67%) or the West (67%) are more likely than those living in the Midwest (60%) or the South (53%) to believe climate change is now occurring.

Beliefs About Global Warming's Imminence and Seriousness, by U.S. Region
Believe global warming has already begun Believe seriousness of global warming is generally correct or underestimated
% %
Northeast 67 70
West 67 67
Midwest 60 62
South 53 60
Figures represent aggregated data from 2017 to 2019

These regional differences also bear out in how dire Americans believe the issue is. Close to seven in 10 residents in the Northeast and West versus closer to six in 10 in the Midwest and South believe that media reporting of global warming is generally accurate or even underestimates the problem.

These data are from Gallup's latest Environment poll, conducted March 1-10.

Most Americans report worrying "a great deal" or a "fair amount" about global warming, but the combined percentage worried is a bit higher among residents of the Northeast and West than the Midwest and the South.

Worries About Global Warming, by U.S. Region
I'm going to read you a list of environmental problems. As I read each one, please tell me if you personally worry about this problem a great deal, a fair amount, only a little or not at all. First, how much do you personally worry about global warming or climate change?
Great deal/Fair amount Only a little/Not at all
% %
Northeast 72 28
West 67 32
Midwest 62 38
South 61 39
Figures represent aggregated data from 2017 to 2019

The regional differences in views about global warming largely reflect the political leanings of each region's states and the politicization of the issue, with many Democrats sounding the alarm on the severity of climate change and many Republicans casting doubts about its effects and its cause.

Among six environmental concerns Gallup asks about, worries about global warming show the greatest regional differences.

Americans' Concerns About Environmental Problems
% Worry a great deal/fair amount
Northeast Midwest South West
% % % %
Global Warming 72 62 61 67
Loss of Tropical Rain Forests 67 64 67 73
Air Pollution 80 73 74 79
Extinction of Plant and Animal Species 74 67 71 73
Pollution of Rivers, Lakes and Reservoirs 85 80 83 84
Pollution of Drinking Water 84 82 83 80
Figures represent aggregated data from 2017 to 2019

Though most Americans rate the quality of the environment in the U.S. more negatively than positively, there are regional differences. Southerners and Midwesterners are mixed, skewing slightly negative in how they rate the quality of the nation's environment, while residents in the Northeast and West are substantially more negative in their ratings.

Ratings of the Quality of the Environment, by U.S. Region
How would you rate the overall quality of the environment in this country today -- as excellent, good, only fair or poor?
Excellent/Good Only fair/Poor
% %
South 46 53
Midwest 47 53
West 38 62
Northeast 39 61
Figures represent aggregated data from 2017 to 2019

Bottom Line

Different regions have tried various approaches to environmental protection in recent years. Upon President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, a group of 23 states -- primarily those clustered in the East and West -- took the initiative to advance the accord's goals on their own, in lieu of federal support. Meanwhile, large shale reserves, from which natural gas can be extracted, cut across states with varying policies on the practice of hydrofracking -- making this a contentious issue between neighboring states with differing policies on fracking.

These regional differences about the environment and global warming could hinder environmental action at the federal level. Worry about global warming is up and majorities of Americans support proposals to reduce the use of fossil fuels while increasing the production of wind and solar energy. However, without more consensus from around the country, ambitious approaches to address climate change, like the Green New Deal -- or even GOP alternatives - could struggle to attain the necessary votes.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

View complete question responses and trends.

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