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Less than Half of Americans Believe Humans are Cause of Global Climate Change

Majority of Americans believe meteorologists are just guessing a lot of the time

NEW YORK, April 10, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- It's something everyone complains about – it's too hot or it's too cold; it's too snowy/rainy or it's too dry. Weather is the great equalizer and as winter finally (hopefully) makes its way into spring, it's interesting to note that over three-quarters of Americans (77%) say they prefer summer over winter. In looking back at the winter that just came to a close, Americans in each region of the country feel differently about what was. When it comes to the temperature, almost nine in ten Midwesterners (88%) and over four in five Easterners (84%) say it was colder than normal, as do 71% of those in the South. In the West, they are a little more divided as 45% believe it was warmer than normal, one-third (33%) say it was about the same as normal and one in five (18%) say it was colder than normal.

Harris Poll Logo.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,234 adults surveyed online between March 12 and 17, 2014. (Full results, including data tables, available here)

There is a similar feeling when it comes to the precipitation. Around three-quarters of those in the Midwest (77%) and East (73%) say the rain or snow in their area (and it was mostly snow!) was more than normal. In the South, half (49%) say the rain or snow was more than normal, one-third (34%) believe it was about the same as normal and 15% say it was less than normal. In the drought stricken West, more than three in five (62%) say the rain or snow was less than normal this winter.

Is it climate change?
When those who said that the temperature and/or precipitation are asked if the differences this winter were due to global climate change, half say yes – but one-quarter (24%) say the difference was definitely caused by global climate change and one-quarter (26%) say maybe it was caused by it. Almost two in five Americans (38%) say no, it wasn't and 13% are not sure. There is a generational difference, as Millennials are more likely than Matures to say that the changes are definitely due to global climate change (28% vs. 18%) and maybe due to it (31% vs. 22%). Matures, on the other hand, are more likely than Millennials to say that the changes are not due to global climate change (47% vs. 31%). Also, while the past winter may have been rough in much of the country, almost seven in ten Americans (69%) do not believe that the severity of this past winter is proof that global climate change is not happening.

Looking at overall feelings on global climate change, nearly half of Americans (45%) believe it exists and that humans are the main cause. Three in ten U.S. adults (30%) believe global climate change exists but that its causes are mainly not related to humans, while 13% do not believe it exists and 12% are unsure. There is a strong political division on this, as two-thirds of Democrats (65%) believe global warming exists and humans are the main cause while 20% say it exists, but the causes aren't related to humans and 5% do not believe it exists. Among Republicans almost half (45%) believe it exists, but the causes of global climate change are not related to humans, 23% do not believe it exists and 22% say global climate change exists and humans are the main cause.

Blame the weatherman?
One group to feel sorry for this past winter had to be the meteorologists. They were the ones who had to talk about the polar vortex and the latest snow storm or, in the West, another week without any rain. Americans are divided on their attitudes towards this group of professionals. Over half (54%) think meteorologists are just guessing a lot of the time while 46% disagree with this. Almost three in five Gen Xers (58%) and Baby Boomers (58%) agree that meteorologists are just guessing a lot of the time, compared to half of Matures (50%) and Millennials (49%).

Click here for a look at American attitudes about being green.

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 12 and 17, 2014 among 2,234 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #35, April 10, 2014

By Regina A. Corso, SVP, The Harris Poll and Public Relations Research

About Nielsen & The Harris Poll
On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll.  Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit

Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
The Harris Poll
[email protected]

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