Barry Rabe: Majority of Americans want feds to address climate change

December 5, 2012

Just over half of Americans believe the federal government should address climate change, according to a University of Michigan survey.

While 51 percent of those polled said the federal government should take a great deal of responsibility for climate change, 44 percent said state governments should while 38 percent pointed to local governments to solve the problem.

The results come from the National Surveys on Energy and Environment, a joint effort of the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at U-M's Ford School of Public Policy and the Muhlenberg Institute of Public Opinion at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa.

"This represents a significant increase in public support from the past two years for all levels of government to address climate change," said U-M Professor Barry Rabe, director of CLOSUP. "This also coincides with findings of considerable support for some specific policy options to reduce greenhouse gases."

The telephone survey of 917 Americans between Sept. 26 and Oct. 11 had a margin of error of 3.5 percent either way. It was completed before powerful storms hit the East Coast and spurred concerns about their possible connection to global warming.

Other findings include:


  • There was strong support for policies to reduce greenhouse gases such as increasing energy production from renewable sources (59 percent) and increasing the average fuel economy of new vehicles (60 percent).
  • When linking such policies to a 10 percent rise in electricity or vehicle prices, support wavered to 35 percent wanting more energy production from renewable sources and 38 percent supporting higher vehicle fuel economy.
  • If the federal government established a tax on fossil fuels, 36 percent of respondents said the funds should go toward renewable energy research, 21 percent wanted the tax repealed and 16 percent wanted it to reduce the deficit.