Global warming skepticism continues to rise in the U.S.

Americans continue to grow more skeptical of the threat of global warming, with a new Gallup poll showing that nearly half of all Americans believe the threat is exaggerated.

According to the poll, 48 percent of the population considers the seriousness of global warming to be “generally exaggerated” — up from 41 percent last year and 35 percent in 2008, and by far the highest figure in the 13 years Gallup has posed the question.


Likewise, an all-time high of 35 percent of respondents said the effects of global warming would not manifest during their lifetimes or would never occur. And while in 2008, 20 percent more Americans attributed global warming to human causes than to natural causes, this year that margin is down to 4 percent.

How do we account for these rapid shifts in opinion? The most obvious explanation is that environmental concerns have grown much more politicized in recent years, and particularly in the past year. What was once a broad moral and scientific issue is now a centerpiece of the Democrats’ legislative agenda. The percentage of Americans expressing a belief in man-made climate change now correlates loosely with the level of support for the president, while the percentage expressing skepticism is in line with opposition to Democrats in Washington.

If there’s any good news for environmental advocates here, then, it’s that concerns about global warming are unlikely to drop much further — at least as long as half the country backs President Obama and his legislative goals.

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Aaron Wiener

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