According to a recent Gallup Poll, an increasing number of Americans believe that the threat of global warming is exaggerated. In the 2009 poll, Gallup surveyed 1012 adults by fixed and mobile phone. The results found that forty-one percent of Americans doubted the severity of global warming as reported by the mainstream media. In addition, the environmental poll found a record-breaking 16 percent of Americans reported that they believed the effects of global warming will never occur.
Gallup Analyst Lydia Saad comments that, “Americans generally believe global warming is real (but) most Americans do not view the issue in the same dire terms as the many prominent leaders advancing global warming as an issue.”
Americans ranked global warming last out of eight environmental issues to be concerned about in the poll. Of highest concern to Americans surveyed was the pollution of drinking water – pulling in 84 percent of the votes. While Americans tend to believe that global warming is real, only 34% surveyed felt that they worry “a great deal” about the issue.
The annual environmental poll shows this drop in public concern across several measures. Global warming not only ranks last among the percentage of Americans concerned either a “great deal” or a “fair amount”, global warming is the only issue to have seen a significant decrease in public concern over the past year.
What could have caused such an increase in global warming doubters?
Global warming has received a great deal of attention this past decade due to debates regarding the Kyoto Protocol and former Vice President Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”. However, in this past year, the global warming message may have lost some of its ground with Americans. Given the economic downturn, it is possible that some of the public concern for global warming has turned toward pressing economic issues. Additionally, other factors may also be contributing to the dampening of the global warming message.
The recent elections in the United States could have had some effect on issue. The number of Republicans to believe that global warming media coverage is exaggerated has continuously increased since 1997. However, the 2009 environmental poll also reveals an increase in independent voters agreeing with the Republicans doubters.
Heightened politicization of issues leading up to the elections – including the concern over global warming – may have altered American beliefs on the subject. Additionally, an abundant number of debates over drilling in Alaska, renewable energy and the necessity for climate change legislation may have increased public fatigue over topics related to global warming. Therefore, next year’s survey will be of further importance to determine whether the increased number of global warming doubters in America is a reaction to unique circumstances or a trend that will continue into the future.