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Which Elected Leaders Should Do More on Climate? Here’s What Americans Say. – The New York Times

It’ll take some time to understand how Americans view last week’s collapse of climate legislation in Congress, but previous data holds some clues. When asked which elected officials should do more on climate, Americans point to Congress, according to recent surveys by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.






61% of Americans think Congress should do more to address global warming

61% national avg.

61% of Americans think Congress should do

more to address global warming

61% national avg.

61% of Americans think Congress should do

more to address global warming

61% national avg.


Source: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, Congressional district boundaries, 2021

Last year, researchers found 61 percent of American adults thought Congress should do more to address global warming, according to modeling of national survey data. Only 52 percent thought the same of the president.






52% think the president should do more

to address global warming

57% think their governor should do more

to address global warming

52% think the president should do

more to address global warming

57% think their governor should do

more to address global warming

52% think the president should do

more to address global warming

57% think their governor should do

more to address global warming

52% think the president should do more

to address global warming

57% think their governor should do more

to address global warming


Source: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, by state, 2021

“People do understand, I think generally, that the president is not a king,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, who led the study and directs the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. “It takes Congress to actually pass the laws and dedicate the money.”

When broken down by state, a majority of Americans in all but three believed that Congress should do more.

One of those is West Virginia, home to the Democrat responsible for last week’s failure to reach agreement on climate action. That senator, Joe Manchin III, who has personal ties to the fossil fuel industry, cited fears of inflation in describing his decision.






Percent who think Congress should do more to address global warming

Percent who think Congress should do more to address global warming

Percent who think Congress should do

more to address global warming


Source: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, by state, 2021

If one Republican senator had joined the rest of the Democrats to pass the climate legislation, it would have altered temperatures on the planet, Dr. Leiserowitz said. Every fraction of a degree of warming brings greater risk of new catastrophes, scientists warn, like deadly heat waves, wildfires, extreme drought and increasingly powerful and destructive storms. But by voting with Democrats on climate, Republicans would potentially risk their political futures.

“Politics today is increasingly driven by base politics, so it’s not about catering to the average opinion of the voter in your state,” Dr. Leiserowitz said. “You’re going to get crucified by your right flank if you’re a Republican, as you will have crossed the fossil fuel industry, the small government groups, the nativists. That’s the stranglehold of our current system. It’s that people are trapped by their own extremes.”

Americans also look to another group of government leaders to do more on climate change: The state and local ones. The 2021 analysis found that 57 percent of Americans wanted their governor to do more to address global warming, and 59 percent wanted the same of local officials. Indeed, since the collapse of climate legislation last week, combined with a recent Supreme Court decision limiting the federal government’s power to regulate planet-warming emissions, state and local levels of government are among the remaining ways for the United States to fight global warming.

A Yale poll this spring, which was not broken down geographically, asked the same questions of registered voters. While the numbers differed slightly, the pattern remained regarding which elected officials they said should do more: 57 percent said Congress, 51 percent said President Biden, 53 percent said their governor and 55 percent said local officials.

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