New KFF/Washington Post Climate Change Poll Examines the Knowledge and Views of American Adults and Teens

A new KFF/Washington Post survey probes in depth what Americans know and think about climate change, their personal involvement with the issue, and their willingness to accept trade-offs to reduce its impact. A parallel survey of teens ages 13-17 explores how they view the potential effects of climate change on their generation.

The poll finds that a large majority of adults and teens believe that human activity is causing changes to the world’s climate. About half of adults believe people need to act within the next 10 years to prevent the worst effects of climate change or that it is already too late.

One in four adults say they personally have taken action to express their views on climate change, such as donating to a climate change charity, contacting a government official, or joining a protest, rally or other event.

Most adults say they would support higher taxes on the wealthy or on companies that burn fossil fuels to pay for policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Far fewer, however, say they would be willing to pay higher taxes at the gas pump or an extra $10 per month on their electricity bills.

Among teenagers, most say they feel that there are things they can do personally to make a difference when it comes to reducing the effects of climate change. About four in ten say they have taken action to reduce their own carbon footprint. And one in four say they personally engaged in political action on climate change – either participating in a school walkout, protest or rally, or contacting a government official about the issue.

As with adults, most teenagers see climate change as a major problem, though it does not stand out as a defining issue for their generation. About as many teens say climate change is “extremely important” to them personally as say the same about health care, gun policy and the economy.

The poll also probed support for specific policy solutions, perceptions of the urgency of the problem, frequency of discussions, and the politics of climate change. Additional findings related to the public’s knowledge and views of the major causes of climate change and the role climate change plays in severe weather events will be released in the near future.

This survey is the 34th in a series of surveys dating back to 1995 that have been conducted as a part of The Washington Post/KFF Survey Project. All surveys in the series are designed and analyzed jointly by survey researchers at KFF and The Washington Post. The survey was conducted online and by telephone July 9-Aug. 5 among a nationally representative sample of 2,293 adults ages 18 and over and 629 teens ages 13-17. The sample was drawn through the AmeriSpeak panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for adults and plus or minus 5 percentage points for teens. A report highlighting key findings is available at kff.org. The Washington Post’s journalism drawing on the survey findings is available at washingtonpost.com.