Scientific evidence continually points to an overall warming world. However, what scientific papers continue to discuss and what the general population is aware of are often two different things. This is especially true to the sway the television news programs hold, programs which often do not discuss global warming issues. So it comes as no surprise that in the United States belief in global warming varies widely.
For consecutive years polls have been performed to determine the country’s overall stance on global warming. The highest belief percentage ever polled in the U.S. was with seventy-two percent in December of 2008. Since then the percentage has wavered, largely dependent upon weather and media reports at the time. In the spring of 2011, polls found that only fifty-five percent of individuals believed in global warming.
The most recent poll, performed by the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College, was performed in December of 2011. A total of 887 Americans were polled in the early days of December, prior to the onset of winter, a winter that has turned out to be mild but may influence later polling once more. The poll found that sixty-two percent of those surveyed believe global warming was occurring, the highest percentage in years.
The main reason individuals had for believing global warming was occurring is due to weather, including rising daily temperatures and major storm events. Temperatures and weather events seem to correspond to belief in global warming despite the difference between weather and climate. Differences between weather and climate are not fully understood by the public at large and therefore are often thought of as the same thing. For example, a winter which has increased snowfall will correspond generally to a decrease in belief in global warming despite scientific research that proves the opposite is true.
The reasons individuals cited for believing in global warming vary, including twenty-five percent indicating it is due to the temperatures. Another twenty-five percent indicated weather events. The low amount of media coverage regarding the topic was shown by only 1 in 8 individuals expressing their belief due to media. Only 1 in 7 individuals noted decreasing ice in the Arctic or melting glaciers. Eight percent of individuals polled indicated scientific studies as the basis of their belief.
While the polls do not impact whether or not global warming is true, they do reflect public opinion on the matter. Public opinion influences governmental moves regarding legislature for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable energy, involvement in global treaties and many other aspects.