Summary

On May 4, 2007, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing about about recent in-depth research on what Americans think about the issue of global climate change, what they want government to do on the issue, which remedies the public favors and which they oppose, and what Congressional representatives can expect to hear from their constituents on this issue in the coming months.

For 25 years, Dr. Krosnick has conducted research exploring how the American public develops its opinions on political issues and how those issues exert pressure on government. A widely-recognized expert on survey research, he is principal investigator of the American National Election Study, the nation's preeminent academic project exploring voter decision-making and political campaign effects, and has spent the last 10 years conducting in-depth surveys exploring Americans’ opinions on climate change.

This latest survey, conducted April 5-10, 2007, highlights startling ways that Americans’ thinking on the issue of climate change has altered during just the past 12 months, as well as during the last decade. Normally, Americans’ views on public policy issues change very slowly. However, on the issue of climate change, public opinion has been shifting very quickly—a third of Americans now say global warming ranks as the world's single largest environmental problem, double the number who gave it top ranking last year, and seven in 10 Americans want more federal action on global warming. Thus, it is valuable for policymakers to have a sense of this movement.

Dr. Krosnick discussed his findings regarding public reaction to various policy approaches to reduce CO2 emissions in the future. Dr. Krosnick’s surveys also illuminate many behind-the-scenes opinions that Americans hold on this issue, having to do with the credibility of climate scientists, the proper role of government, and the psychological processes by which people combine their personal daily experiences with the opinions of experts to arrive at their own conclusions about how the nation and the world will change in coming years.

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