- Environmental quality more worrying to younger than older Republicans
- Worry among Republicans 35 and older is lowest in more than two decades
- 64% of Democrats across age groups worry "a great deal" about environment
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Even before the U.S. Supreme Court's June ruling that limits the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, a near-record-high 44% of Americans said they worried "a great deal" about the quality of the environment. As with many issues, though, partisans' views differ sharply on this measure. Yet, an in-depth analysis of Gallup data finds that while less than one-quarter of Republicans overall express this high level of worry, those aged 18-34 are significantly more worried than their older counterparts.
Likewise, independents under age 35 are more worried about environmental quality than older independents. Unlike Republicans, though, high-level worry among young independents rises to the majority level.
Democrats' concerns about the quality of the environment do not differ by age, with a solid 64% majority of each of the three age groups saying they worry a great deal.
These findings are based on aggregated data from Gallup's Environment polls conducted from 2019 through 2022. This question has been asked in the annual survey every year since 2001 except 2003 and 2009. For analysis purposes, the data were divided into five four-year periods to allow for sufficient sample sizes for the age comparisons within each party group.
Trend in Worry About Quality of Environment Shows New Highs and Lows
Worry about the quality of the environment among the youngest group of Republicans has consistently outpaced that of the oldest group since 2001. The latest gap in worry between those aged 18-34 (32%) and those 55 and older (14%) is the largest it has been, after an eight-percentage-point increase among young Republicans and a five-point drop among older Republicans since 2015-2018.
High-level worry among Republicans aged 35 to 54 (18%) is similar to that of their older peers, with both groups signaling the lowest level of worry in the latest four-year period. Meanwhile, young Republicans' worry is near the highest it has been since 2001.
Young independents have been steadily more worried about the environment than their older counterparts. The 60% of independents aged 18-34 who say they are worried a great deal about the environment is the highest on record. Yet, unlike Republicans aged 35 and older, independents in the older age groups have become increasingly worried in recent years, and the 40% to 45% of each with a great deal of worry are the highest in the trend.
Democrats' worry has been relatively consistent throughout the trend, with little variance by age. The most recent readings are the highest on record.
Older Republicans Least Likely to Say Global Warming Effects Have Begun
Republicans aged 55 and older are the least likely of all age groups in the three parties to believe that the effects of global warming have already begun, which may contribute to their lack of worry about the environment. About three in 10 of these older Republicans think the effects of global warming have already begun, while 35% say they will not begin in their lifetime but sometime in the future, and 23% think they will never happen.
Meanwhile, roughly equal pluralities of over four in 10 Republicans in the youngest and middle age groups say global warming effects have already begun.
At the same time, majorities of independents and Democrats across age groups likewise believe global warming effects have already started.
Gallup also gauges Americans' level of worry about global warming specifically. Although young Republicans (20%) are slightly more likely than those aged 35 and older (9%) to say they worry a great deal about global warming, their concern is subdued. Similar to their concern about environmental quality, Democrats' worry about global warming varies little among age groups, with roughly 70% of each saying they worry a great deal. Independents' global warming concern diverges sharply among the three age groups, as a majority of those aged 18-34 (58%) worry a great deal, while fewer of those aged 35-54 (44%) and 55 and older (36%) do.
Party is a greater differentiator than age in Americans' views about the environment, as the gaps on multiple measures between young and older Republicans are smaller than the gaps between every age group of Republicans and their Democratic counterparts. Still, unlike the homogeneity of Democrats when it comes to concerns about the environment, young Republicans worry more and are more likely than older members of their party to believe that the effects of climate change have begun.
Independents are similarly divided by age in their worry about the environment, though their degree of concern is higher than Republicans'. Yet, majorities of independents across age groups believe global warming is already having an effect.
Extreme weather events continue to plague the world, and more Americans say they experience them. Although Gallup has found that people who have experienced unusually warm or cold winters, for example, do not universally cite human-induced climate change as the cause, people who have been victimized by extreme weather, including Republicans, are more likely to worry about the environment and climate change.
If increasing numbers of Republicans experience extreme weather, and younger generations continue to exhibit higher levels of environmental concerns, these partisans overall may become more likely to believe global warming is affecting the world and increase their worry about the environment.
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