Reuters/Stanford/Ipsos Environmental Poll

Friday, September 16, 2011

Washington, DC – A new Ipsos poll conducted behalf of Stanford University and Reuters explores American public opinion on the environment and global warming. A summary of key findings are listed below and the full report is available for download on the right.

Global warming has been a central focus in the recent Republican presidential primary debates. What do the American people actually think on the issue?

Our survey shows that more Americans today believe that global warming is occurring compared to just a year ago. However, at the same time, the skeptics have become more certain in their beliefs that global warming is not happening.

  • The recent Reuters/Stanford/Ipsos poll finds a significant increase in the number of Americans who believe the earth has been warming (from 75% in 2010 to 83% now) in the last year. Currently, 83% of all adults say that global warming has been happening while only 15% say they believe that it has not been happening.
    • While attitudes on this issue differ between Democrats and Republicans, the divide is not as great as the political debate might imply: Almost three-quarters (72%) of Republicans believe global warming has been happening, as do 92% of Democrats.
    • The percentage of Americans who are certain that warming has been happening has also climbed, from 45% to 53%.
    • However, those who do not believe in global warming have become more resolute in their attitude (certainty from 35% in 2010 to 53% in 2011).
  • A large majority (71%) believe that if warming has been happening, it has been caused either partly (45%) or mostly (27%) by things people have been doing. 27% believe warming to be the result of natural causes.
    • Here the political polarization of the issue is more apparent: 37% of Democrats believe global warming is the result primarily of human action, while only 14% of Republicans believe this. Conversely, 43% of Republicans believe global warming is the result of natural causes, up from 35% in 2010. Self-identified Tea Party members display still more certainty (49%) that global warming is caused by natural events.
  • Looking forward, a large majority of Americans (72%) expect the world’s temperature to continue rising over the next 100 years if nothing is done to prevent it. Here too, Democrats are much more likely to believe in global warming’s continued impact (88%) compared to Republicans (57%) or Tea Party members (49%).

Source Link: IPSOS

OSS Analysis of IPSOS Poll

Sifting through the the policy relevant numbers two stand out around 83% believe global warming is occurring and 63% tend toward natural causes. This indicates that the cause factor is becoming less recognized. Let’s take a look at the numbers through the lens of antithesis.The poll indicates that:

  • 37% of Democrats say current warming is mostly caused by human activity therefore,
  • 63% of Democrats do not recognize significance of human cause factors.


  • 14% of Republicans say current warming is mostly caused by human activity therefore,
  • 86% of Republicans do not recognize significance of human cause factors.

The poll of course measures ‘belief’ which generally regulates human behavior. Science is not based in belief though, science is based in relative confidence levels based on maths, physics, and observations that produce a cohesive line or lines of evidence. The evidence suggests that confidence in the human caused change factor is greater than 90%. By extrapolating from the numbers above we have a good indicator as to why we do not have motion towards relevant policy at this time.

  • Approximately 74.5% of the Republicans and Democrats do not have sufficient understanding to achieve meaningful policy relevance.

Believing global warming is occurring is a mistake on nearly every level. Primarily because beliefs are wind driven, from a psychological point of view at least. Every time someones doubt strings are pulled or argument to emotion pulls at an issue we all can care about combined with an argument form authority, faux or not as even facts can be misrepresented through spinning the context, we simply can not and should not rely on belief as a driver of understanding. We need to rely on what science can reasonably show us when facts are represented in relevant context.

People need to understand, at the very least, that global warming is not about belief, it is simply about physics and math examined with observations and the resulting evidence lines that show substantially and with high confidence that of the many human factors involved in climate change increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is a primary and significant factor. Without that understanding meaningful policy achievement is less possible.