Sustainability Climate Change

Most Americans say government, corporations responsible for tackling climate change

When it comes to ascribing responsibility for addressing climate change, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to point to industry and government.
Air pollution.

Story at a glance

  • President Biden is set to authorize the largest infusion of federal dollars to combat climate change in U.S. history.

  • An AP-NORC poll conducted before the legislation was approved highlights Americans’ attitudes toward climate change.

  • Compared with past polls, more individuals felt the government and corporations hold a responsibility to address the crisis over every-day individuals. 

As President Biden gears up to sign the largest U.S. climate change investment into law, results from an AP-NORC poll — conducted before the Inflation Reduction Act was passed — show a growing number of Americans feel corporations, industry and the U.S. federal government have a greater responsibility to address climate change than individuals. 

This finding was particularly strong among Democrats compared with Republicans surveyed. The results are based on a survey of 1,053 U.S. adults. The representative sample was queried between June 23 and 27. 

Researchers compared results of the current poll with survey findings reported three years ago. When asked in 2019, 44 percent of respondents reported being “extremely” or “very” concerned about the impact of climate change on their personal lives. In 2022, 35 percent of U.S. adults reported the same, despite recent reports of extreme heat sweeping the nation.

However, Americans are concerned about the crisis’ impact on others, citing its effects on future generations, coastal communities, and low-income communities. 

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Only 52 percent of those polled in 2022 said they felt their personal actions have an effect on climate change, down from 66 percent in 2019. In addition, in the past around half of those polled felt individuals have a great deal or a lot of responsibility for climate change compared with 45 percent surveyed in 2022. 

When broken down by demographics, women, Democrats and Black and Hispanic Americans were more likely to be strongly concerned about climate change’s impact on their individual lives and how their personal choices affect the crisis. 

Previous research has shown racial minorities will be disproportionately impacted by the ramifications of climate change, while the United Nations states “climate change will be an added stressor that will aggravate women’s vulnerability. It is widely known that during conflict, women face heightened domestic violence, sexual intimidation, human trafficking and rape.”

Given recent global events, the poll also shows climate change is ranked as a lower priority for some individuals compared with other national concerns like inflation and the economy.

Of the respondents who believe climate change is happening, the majority, 70 percent, acknowledge the importance of individual lifestyle changes and are taking steps to reduce their climate impact. However, poll results show economic motivations play a large part in these changes, which include using energy efficient appliances, turning off lights when they’re not needed and reducing driving amounts.

In addition, more than half of respondents have taken action to prepare for extreme weather events.