More than half of Americans say they’ve personally felt the impacts of climate change, poll finds

Story at a glance

  • A new Economist/YouGov poll documents adults’ perceptions about the threat of climate change and whether current actions being taken are enough to meet the challenge.

  • A total of 1,500 participants took part, although the majority of respondents were white.

  • In an effort to combat the rising risks of climate-related extreme weather events, the U.S. Department of Energy recently granted $14 million to various projects aimed at meeting this goal.

As record-breaking heat waves continue to grip the country, a new Economist/YouGov poll finds 53 percent of U.S. adults report personally having felt the effects of climate change. Findings were based on responses from 1,500 individuals between July 23 and 26, 2022. 

Of those surveyed, 23 percent said they have not felt the effects of climate change, 18 percent reported they were not sure and seven percent responded saying “the climate is not changing.” However, nearly half of respondents did feel there is currently a climate emergency in the United States. 

Although understanding how a single phenomenon can be attributed to climate change is difficult, numerous studies have linked increased emissions from the burning of fossil fuels to more intense and frequent heat waves. 

Data from the Environmental Protection Agency also documents increasing heat wave intensity, frequency, duration and length of season throughout the 2010s compared with metrics collected from the 1960s onward. 

America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.

However, other extreme weather events, like hurricanes will also become more intense as the Earth’s temperature warms.

The poll also found an additional 11 percent of respondents reported they expect to feel the effects of climate change in the future. 

Compared with previous summers, a quarter of those polled reported the summer of 2022 is “much hotter than usual,” and just over 30 percent noted it is “somewhat hotter than usual.” A large proportion of respondents also reported temperatures ranging from 90 to 99 degrees this past week in their areas. 

Meanwhile, 33 percent of individuals reported temperatures at or above 100 degrees.

Attitudes around what humans can do to mitigate climate change and its subsequent effects varied among participants. Fourteen percent felt it’s already too late to avoid the worst effects, while 43 percent felt this is still possible, but would require “a drastic change in the steps taken to tackle it.” A smaller proportion of respondents (12 percent) felt current steps being taken would be sufficient to address the worst outcomes. 

Nearly 40 percent of individuals polled had a high school education or less and 29 percent had some college education, compared with 22 percent who graduated college. 

The largest cohort of participants were also between the ages of 45 and 64, followed by those aged 30 to 44. The vast majority of respondents were white (67 percent) and 40 percent identified as independents on the political spectrum. 

In an effort to better prepare for the increasing threats posed by more frequent and intense weather events, the Department of Energy recently granted $14 million to projects aimed at meeting this goal.