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Global warming perceptions by states: More Americans accept fault

Global warming perceptions by states: More Americans accept fault

These numbers show the next big front in the climate change fight.

WASHINGTON — It's been more than 50 years since the words "Earth Day" entered our environmental lexicon and in the wake of this year's holiday, Data Download looks at changes in thoughts and attitudes around climate change in the last few years.

Polling data show there is an increasing understanding that humans do, in fact, play a large role in earth's changing environment — but sharp political divides and challenges to action still remain. Survey data from the Yale Program on Climate Communication tells a story of change and state level differences.

Back in 2014, the program looked at a series of questions around climate change including whether people believed "global warming is mostly caused by human activities."

Only about 48 percent of Americans believe that statement to be true. And at the state level, the idea got 50 percent or more support in only 18 states.

Why does the opinion at the state level matter? Because each of those states sends two senators to Washington and, back in 2014, those numbers showed how hard it might be to get legislation through Congress.

New data from last fall, however, shows how much has changed since then.

Asked the same question in 2020, a majority of Americans, 57 percent, said they believed that "human activities" were mostly responsible for "global warming." That's a 9-point shift.

And, perhaps even more remarkable, a majority of people agreed with that statement in 46 states. The only places that were under 50 percent — Kentucky, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming — are states with deep ties to energy extraction.

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