5 Things to Know from the AP-NORC environmental poll

By Dina Cappiello - Associated Press | Fri, December 12, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and Yale University surveyed 1,576 Americans on a wide range of environmental and energy matters, including global warming. Here are some key findings by category:


Most Americans believe that the U.S. should take a leadership role in the global fight against climate change. Three-quarters of Democrats and nearly half of Republicans say the U.S. should lead on global warming, even if other countries don't take action. Those in support of a treaty are split on whether the Obama administration should forge ahead with or without approval by the Senate.


Sixty percent of Americans, including nearly three-quarters of Democrats and half of Republicans surveyed, say they favor government regulation of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas. They did not weigh in on how they should be regulated. President Barack Obama has proposed regulations to limit carbon dioxide for the first time from coal-fired power plants, and has already controlled their emissions from vehicles.


Less than half of Americans believe global warming is extremely urgent or serious, putting it near the bottom of a long list of environmental concerns. Unsafe disposal of toxic waste, water and air pollution, loss of tropical rainforests, garbage, and overuse of natural resources all ranked above global warming. Global warming shared the bottom of the list with the use of genetically modified organisms in food and the loss of open space. Of all environmental issues, Republicans and Democrats were most divided on global warming - 64 percent of Democrats said it was serious, but only 27 percent of Republicans agreed. A quarter of all Americans, the largest share of any issue, said global warming wasn't too serious or wasn't serious at all.


Six in 10 Americans said protecting the environment would "improve economic growth and provide new jobs, while just 15 percent said it would "reduce economic growth and cost jobs." The Obama administration has long argued that environmental regulations and economic recovery are not mutually exclusive, but Republicans have framed more environmental regulation as a job killer that will stymie economic growth.


Despite protests and political showdowns, at least half the country has no strong opinion on the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The pipeline would carry tar sands oil across the Canadian border to Gulf Coast refineries. Overall, about one-third of Americans favor President Barack Obama approving the pipeline, another third are neutral and 18 percent oppose it. That won't stop Congress from trying to force its approval. Republicans have vowed to bring it up again when they take control of Congress next month.


The AP-NORC Center and Yale University survey of 1,576 adults was conducted online Nov. 20-Dec. 1, using a sample drawn from GfK's probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Funding for the survey comes from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Science.

Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.

 About this study

​This AP story was originally released on December 12, 2014. It is estimated that approximately one-half the world’s population receives news and information from The Associated Press each day, which suggests the reach and penetration of each of these stories.