Don’t look now, but that famous American characteristic of a short attention span may be at work again. The “so what?” or yawn response may be starting to set in.
A newly released Gallup poll shows that three out of five Americans think global warming is under way … but the slightly more than one-third finding that trend worrisome “is roughly the same as the one Gallup measured 19 years ago.”
“It’s serious, but we have other problems to worry about,” the online publication Climatewire reported in summarizing from a separate survey by the Pew Research Center for People & The Press. That survey found climate change tied for last on a listing of domestic issues facing the President and the Congress, just behind “influence of lobbyists” and “moral breakdown.”
“Despite the enormous attention paid to global warming over the past several years, the average American is in some ways no more worried about it than in years past,” Gallup’s Frank Newport wrote in releasing the survey results. “The American public is more worried about a series of other environmental concerns than about global warming, and there has been no consistent upward trend on worry about global warming going back for two decades.”
There are several seemingly inconsistent findings in the survey results. Newport wrote, for instance, that slightly more than one-third of Americans surveyed support “immediate, drastic action,” even though 80 percent now say they understand the issue of global warming very well or fairly well. That figure is up from 53 percent 16 years ago. About one in four Americans surveyed “continue to say the effects of global warming will not happen in their lifetimes, if ever.”
At the same time, Gallup found 40 percent of those surveyed today saying global warming will pose “a serious threat to them in their lifetimes.” That figure contrasts with 25 percent answering that way in 1997.
From a list of 12 environmental problems, the greenhouse effect or global warming ranked ahead of only urban sprawl and loss of open spaces and acid rain when it came to causing a great deal or a fair amount of worry among those sampled.
Gallup characterized its poll results as “somewhat mixed.”
“On some dimensions, Americans clearly demonstrate a reaction to the growing discussion and emphasis on global warming in the media and indeed as part of the popular culture,” the organization said in releasing its survey results. But their growing awareness of the issue “does not show a concomitant increase of concern.”
The Gallup results were based on telephone interviews with 1,012 adults nationally, ages 18 and over. The phone interviews were conducted March 6-9, 2008. The results are said to have a 95 percent confidence level with a maximum margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.