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Americans remain pessimistic about the environment - CBS News poll

Demonstrators march down Pennsylvania Avenue during a People's Climate March, to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's stance on the environment, in Washington, U.S., April 29, 2017.

Mike Theiler

By Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto  

Americans are pessimistic about the future condition of the environment. Few expect the environment to be better for the next generation, and most say it will get worse. These negative views have been relatively consistent for the past decade.

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Independents and Democrats are especially likely to think the condition of the environment will decline. Many Republicans, however, see a static situation in which the environment left to the next generation will be no better or worse than it is today.

But younger Americans are a bit more optimistic about the environment that will be left to them.  One in five Americans under 35 say think the environment will be better, nearly twice the percentage of older Americans who feel the same.

Global Warming

Most Americans continue to believe that global warming exists, and most believe that it is caused mainly by human activity.  Here, Republicans break markedly with the rest of America.  Republicans are more apt to attribute global warming to natural causes than human activity, and more than a quarter of Republicans do not believe global warming exists at all.

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 Younger Americans are also more likely to believe that global warming is caused by human activity:  nearly two-thirds of those under 35 think so.  In contrast, just 41 percent of seniors 65 and older attribute the cause to human activity, though most do think global warming exists.

Alternative Energy or More Fossil Fuel Production?

Some have advocated a switch to focusing on more alternative energy sources such as solar and wind as a way to reduce the pace of global warming.  Most Americans think such a move would also produce more jobs for Americans when compared with increasing domestic production of fossil fuels such as oil and gas.  Sixty-one percent of Americans think alternative energy will create more jobs, a seven-point increase from when the question was asked in the fall of 2016.  Thirty percent think focusing on fossil fuels domestically will create more jobs, down eight points since Sept. 2016.

Here again, we see large divisions both along party and generational lines.  While Democrats and independents think focusing on alternative energy will produce more jobs, Republicans think increasing domestic production of fossil fuels is more likely to do so.  In general, Americans who don't believe global warming is caused by human activity tend to think greater domestic production of fossil fuels will create more jobs than alternative energy.

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Young people are particularly hopeful that a shift to more alternative energy will produce more jobs:  three in four Americans under 35 think so, compared to just half of those 65 and older.


This poll was conducted by telephone April 11-15, 2018 among a random sample of 1,004 adults nationwide.  Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA.  Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.

The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone.

Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers. The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables.

The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. 

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