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Meng Li | Lead, Survey Science, Civis Analytics

It’s hard to ignore the increasing reality of climate change in each of our lives. Front pages are regularly covered in images of twisted power lines, neck-deep flooding, and smoke-filled skies. The increase in extreme weather events can also be seen in the data. According to a survey conducted by Civis Analytics, more Americans than ever are concerned about climate change’s effects on their lives and are interested in mitigating its severity.

The reality of climate change is being felt more with each passing year. The summer of 2023 is the hottest on record, and the temperature of the Atlantic is the highest it’s ever been. The increase in the regularity of extreme weather events has been met with more acceptance of climate change. But while more Americans are concerned with global warming, historical divisions along demographic lines still run deep.

illustration of wind

Climate is changing faster than ever before

Climate change has been front page news throughout 2023, with life-threatening heatwaves across the country, enormous wildfires in Canada affecting the air quality of the entire Northeast, and a rare tropical storm hitting Southern California and Mexico. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) 2021 Global Climate Report, Earth’s land and air temperature has risen by an average of 0.14° Fahrenheit per decade since 1880. But since 1981, the Earth has been warming twice as fast at 0.32° F per decade. 

NOAA reports that 2022 is the sixth hottest year on record, with the top 10 hottest years all occurring since 2010. 2023 will likely rank as another record-breaking year, with July 3–6 breaking the record for the hottest days ever recorded globally.

illustration of heat radiating out from the sun

More Americans think that climate change will harm them

With more extreme weather events hitting the United States, more and more Americans believe that climate change will eventually impact them directly in some way. In a representative survey conducted by Civis Analytics, Americans who think climate change will harm them “a great deal” jumped 11 percentage points from August 2020 to August 2023, to 25.3%.

line chart showing the rise in concern that climate change will personal harm American has risen to 25%

Worry about climate change’s personal effects have increased across all age groups, but most significantly among Americans aged 18–49. As of August 2023, 60.6% of respondents ages 18–34 and 61.5% of respondents 35–49 believe climate change will harm them a “great deal or a moderate” amount. This is a 10-point increase from only three years ago for both age ranges. Overall concern for climate change is driven by Gen Z and Millennials, with older Americans seeing more modest increases in concern.

Data shows that concern for climate change’s personal harm is highest in major cities, many of which are left-leaning and on the coast, with 65.2% of Americans living in major cities saying they think climate change will harm them a “great deal” or “moderate” amount,” compared to 47.6% in rural areas. 

illustration of rain and flooding

More Americans accept that climate change is real and happening now

The idea of climate change has been a hot-button political issue for decades, with three-quarters of left-leaning Americans citing a belief in global warming compared to only one-third of right-leaning Americans. Though the partisan division is still embedded in American culture, more and more Americans each year accept that global warming is happening — especially younger Americans.

bar chart showing that Americans believe climate change is real at a rate of 73%

According to the Civis Analytics survey, the number of Americans who believe global warming is happening has increased by eight percentage points from August 2020 to 72.8%  in August 2023, with the majority of that growth among Americans aged 18–49. Like most opinions on climate change, younger Americans are the most interested and concerned.

illustration of the earth in a magnifying glass with a bar chart behind it

Support for measures to mitigate climate change is climbing

With the increase in concern for climate change, more Americans are interested in ways to mitigate its effects. According to the Civis Analytics survey, 21.8% of Americans are “very” interested in tracking their carbon footprint, an increase of 5 percentage points from February 2021. The growth can be seen most in Americans aged 50-64, with 51.7% saying they are “very or moderately” interested in tracking their carbon footprint, an increase of more than ten percentage points from 2021.

Opinions on the federal government’s spending on climate change are also changing. As of August 2023, 49.7% of Americans say they would support an increase in the federal government’s spending on climate change, an increase of 4 percentage points from February 2023. 

illustration of the sun rising on a desert landscape

Historical demographic divides remain

While concern for climate change is increasing, demographic divides on these concerns still remain and don’t appear to be changing drastically. Among all climate questions polled by Civis Analytics, the same divide in opinions across demographic sectors can be seen both in 2023 and 2020 and likely decades before, with modest changes. 

While gender doesn’t seem to play a significant role in opinions on climate change, everything else does. Younger Americans under 50 are the most concerned with climate change and are motivated to do something about it. White Americans believe in global warming the least and are less concerned with its effects than any other racial group. 

Americans who live in cities believe in climate change at higher rates than those in small towns or rural areas. Americans with more education give climate change more consideration, peaking at those with advanced degrees. Finally, political lines remain as divided as ever, with around 75% of left-leaning Americans believing in climate change compared to about 30% of right-leaning Americans.

Environmental nonprofits are in a position to make change

Even with surging inflation, nonprofits focused on climate change and environmental issues are in a great place to capitalize on this growing concern. With more Americans accepting climate change’s effects, nonprofits have a more extensive potential donor base than ever before. 

But it isn’t as simple as casting a wider net. To be successful in courting and educating these new environmentalists, organizations need to be able to analyze their existing donor base to figure out who they need to appeal to and how they can communicate with them. This is why having a clean database is so important. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a new outreach campaign without understanding your existing donors. No one can afford to waste money in this economy.

Case Study

It all comes down to the data

Eliminating silos and cleaning your data is the first step to a successful campaign. A great example of this is the recent and ongoing success of the League of Conservation Voters.

After working with Civis Platform to clean and streamline their data, LCV saw a 390% increase in revenue over five years. LCV also implemented Identity Resolution to link person-level data to more effectively segment their donors according to their behaviors and preferences.

The result is more than just numerical; it has empowered LCV to launch campaigns confidently and become a more prominent player in the environmental space. Using data science and the tools provided by Civis, LCV is in a position to do more good.

Civis Platform Helps LCV Scale and Accelerate Their Fundraising Program with Clean, Accurate Data

Data warehousing with Civis Platform increased revenue by 390 percentage points over a five-year period. Linking person-level data using Identity Resolution to more effectively segment donors. Eliminated sync issues and…

Case Study
A group of climate activists door knocking and having someone sign their petition

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