Ice from the face of Perito Moreno Glacier floats in a lake in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina. The glacier is part of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, which scientists say is rapidly melting due to climate change. (David Silverman/Getty Images)
More Americans say climate change is a major threat than did so in 2009, but the increased concern is concentrated among Democrats

The share of Americans who say global climate change is a major threat to the well-being of the United States has grown from 44% in 2009 to 60% this year. But the rise in concern has largely come from Democrats. Opinions among Republicans on this issue remain largely unchanged.

About nine-in-ten Democrats (88%, including independents who lean to the party) now consider climate change a major threat to the nation, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted March 3-29. That’s up 27 percentage points from a 2009 survey. Concern about climate change has increased among both liberal Democrats and moderate or conservative Democrats (rising 20 and 27 points, respectively).

By contrast, the 6 percentage point increase among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents since 2009 is not statistically significant. In the new survey, about three-in-ten Republicans (31%) consider climate change a major threat, while 45% say it is a minor threat and 24% say it is not a threat to the nation.

How we did this

The data for this post was drawn from multiple surveys. The most recent was a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted over the phone from March 3-29, 2020. The post also draws on data from a separate phone survey of U.S. adults conducted Jan. 8-13, 2020. Both survey samples were randomly selected.

The Jan. 6-19, 2020, and September 2019 surveys were conducted using the American Trends Panel, an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This allows for nearly all U.S. adults to have a chance of selection. The surveys are weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.

Here are the questions and responses for surveys used in this post, as well as each survey’s methodology:

The latest survey was fielded amid growing concern in the U.S. about the outbreak of the coronavirus. Respondents who took the survey in the latter part of the month – after the March 13 declaration of a national emergency due to the virus – were about equally concerned about climate change as those interviewed earlier in the month. Around six-in-ten (63%) of those interviewed March 13 to 29 called climate change a major threat, as did 55% of those surveyed March 3 to 12. (This 8-point difference is not statistically significant at the 95% confidence level.)

Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided on whether climate change should be a top priorityIn recent years, the public has become more supportive of policy action related to climate change. In another Center survey conducted Jan. 8 to 13, more Americans said dealing with global climate change should be a top priority for Congress and the president than said this in early 2015 (52%, up from 34%). But again, the increased emphasis on climate policy has come among Democrats, not Republicans.

Some 78% of Democrats (and independents who lean to the Democratic Party), including 87% of liberal Democrats, said this year that dealing with global climate change should be a top priority for the president and Congress. In 2015, 46% of Democrats said this.

In contrast, only 21% of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents said this year that climate change should be a top priority – a virtually identical share as in 2015 (19%).

Climate change policy is among the issues taking center stage for Democrats heading into the November general election. In surveys conducted by the Center in late 2019 and early 2020, 88% of Democratic registered voters said stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost. Only around four-in-ten Republican registered voters (37%) said the same. A 61% majority of GOP voters said such environmental laws cost too many jobs and hurt the economy.

Note: This is an update of a post originally published on Aug. 28, 2019. For more on the questions, responses and survey methodology used in this report, see “How we did this.”

Brian Kennedy  is a senior researcher focusing on science and society research at Pew Research Center.