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Most Americans Say Climate Change Is a Critical Threat

a sign that says climate justice now!

But public opinion is sharply divided along partisan lines, 2022 Chicago Council Survey data finds.

Climate change, and what approach if any the United States should take to combat it, remains one of the most divisive topics among the American public. Democrats see climate change as a serious and pressing problem that poses a critical threat to the United States; they are even willing to lead the global effort to address it. Republicans, on the other hand, remain largely unconcerned about climate change and think that and American efforts to combat it should be gradual and low in cost.

Key Findings

  • More than half of Americans (54%) say climate changes poses a critical threat to US security, though Democrats remain far more concerned (81%) than Republicans (20%).
  • Both Democrats (75%) and Independents (50%) support taking steps to address climate change now, while a plurality of Republicans favor more gradual action (45%).
  • Most Democrats (75%) want the United States to play a leading role in international efforts to limit climate change, compared to just 19 percent of Republicans.

Overall, a majority of Americans (54%) classify climate change as a critical threat to US security. This figure is largely driven by Democrats, eight in 10 of whom (81%) view climate change as a critical threat, tied with 2021 as an all-time high. Democrats are more concerned about climate change than about any of the other threats asked about on this year’s survey. Two in 10 Republicans (20%) and just over half of Independents (54%) also see climate change as a critical threat.

"a line chart showing partisan views of climate change as a critical threat"

Majorities of Democrats (75%) and half of Independents (50%) support taking steps to address climate change now, even if those steps would involve significant costs. By contrast, a plurality of Republicans believe that the problem can be dealt with gradually by taking steps that are low in cost (45%).

"a bar chart showing partisan views on how to address climate change"

The public is further divided about what role the United States should play in international efforts to limit climate change. The vast majority of Democrats (73%) and a plurality of Independents (47%) want the country to play a leading role, but a plurality of Republicans would prefer that the US role in this effort be a supporting one. 

"a bar chart showing partisan views on the US role in limiting climate change"

About the Author
Research Assistant, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Emily Sullivan joined the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in 2021 as a research assistant on the Public Opinion team.

Methodology

This analysis is based on data from the 2022 Chicago Council Survey of the American public on foreign policy, a project of the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. The 2022 Chicago Council Survey was conducted July 15–August 1, 2022, by Ipsos using its large-scale nationwide online research panel, KnowledgePanel, in both English and Spanish among a weighted national sample of 3,106 adults 18 or older living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 1.8 percentage points. The margin of error is higher for partisan subgroups or for partial-sample items. 

Partisan identification is based on how respondents answered a standard partisan self-identification question: “Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or what?” 

The 2022 Chicago Council Survey is made possible by the generous support of the Crown family and the Korea Foundation. 

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