Top Stories
Top Stories
Politics

Most Americans want action on climate change. Republicans are the exception: Poll

Key Points
  • In a new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll 66 percent of Americans now say they've seen enough evidence to justify action on climate change, up from 51 percent two decades ago.
  • That figure incorporates 85 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of independents, 71 percent of women, 61 percent of men and strong majorities of all racial groups.
  • Resistance comes only from the one-third of Americans who identify themselves as Republicans. A 56 percent majority of the GOP says either that concern about climate change is unwarranted or that more research is necessary before taking action.
Visions of America | Getty Images

Americans have reached consensus on the need to act in response to climate change with one conspicuous exception: Republicans.

A new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll identifies that sharp break in the evolving pattern of public opinion as scientists have amplified their warnings of rising global temperatures and linked them to a range of natural disasters. Overall, 66 percent of Americans now say they've seen enough evidence to justify action, up from 51 percent two decades ago.

That figure incorporates 85 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of independents, 71 percent of women, 61 percent of men and strong majorities of all racial groups. At least 55 percent agree on the need for action in all regions of the country, and at all age, education and income levels.

Resistance comes only from the one-third of Americans who identify themselves as Republicans. A 56 percent majority of the GOP says either that concern about climate change is unwarranted or that more research is necessary before taking action.

The survey shows how deeply the Republican rank and file has absorbed the messages from GOP leaders and media outlets that fears about the issue have been either exaggerated or fabricated outright. Republican Congressional leaders opposed decisions by President Clinton and Obama to curb US carbon emissions in concert with action by other nations.

Read More: Voters are uneasy over probes swirling around Trump, as majority question his honesty: NBC-WSJ poll

President Trump, who has called climate change a "hoax," last year announced the U.S. would withdrawn from the 2015 Paris Agreement joined by 196 countries. The result makes Republicans stand out among those whose sense of urgency has not budged over 20 years and four different presidents.

In 1999, the NBC/WSJ poll showed that just 15 percent of Republicans believed that climate change had been established as a serious problem requiring an immediate response. Today that proportion remains unchanged at 15 percent, while the share of Democrats and independents who expressed urgent concern has risen sharply.

Opponents of action, including Trump, typically insist the financial costs of curbing climate change exceed potential benefits. But the NBC/WSJ survey shows most Americans now disagree.

A 52 percent majority says that failure to address climate change will cost more through the consequences of weather-related events such as droughts or floods. Just 35 percent say that action will raise energy prices and cost more.

Here, too, opinion breaks sharply by party. Some 63 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents say action will cost less than inaction. But just 35 percent of Republicans agree, outpaced by the 48 percent of Republicans who believe action will cost more.

The telephone survey of 900 adults was conducted Dec. 9-12. It carries a margin for error of 3.27 percentage points.