Democrats Are Celebrating a Climate Win. But Fewer Americans Say They Care About Climate Change Than Just Three Years Ago.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), and President Joe Biden / Getty Images
August 16, 2022

As Democrats take a victory lap after passing a bill that spends nearly $400 billion on green energy initiatives, Americans say they are less concerned about climate change than they were three years ago.

Only 35 percent of adults are "extremely or very concerned" about the effects of climate change on them personally, according to a poll from the Associated Press. In 2019, 44 percent of respondents said the same.

Fewer than half of respondents, 45 percent, said individual people have a large responsibility to fight climate change. Thirty-two percent of respondents said they were not concerned about the impact of climate change, and 33 percent said they were only "moderately concerned."

The results come as Democrats celebrate President Joe Biden's upcoming signing of the Inflation Reduction Act. Although several studies show the bill will do nothing to lower inflation, which is at a 40-year high, the bill does provide the largest ever single investment in green energy and climate change mitigation. Because reports show the bill will do little to curb inflation, media outlets have begun referring to the Inflation Reduction Act as a climate and health bill. Yet that framing may not help Democrats sell its provisions to voters. Fewer Americans believe they have a direct impact on climate change than three years ago, the AP poll found. Roughly half said their actions have an effect on climate change, compared with the two-thirds who said the same in 2019.

The Inflation Reduction Act earlier this month passed both chambers of Congress, with every Democrat voting in favor. Biden is expected to sign the bill on Tuesday.

Many Democrats running in competitive races this November touted the bill's provisions as evidence that the party is addressing voters' concerns. But the AP poll found that Americans are far more concerned about rising consumer costs and economic issues than the environment. Fewer Americans cite the environment as a pressing issue than they did three years ago, the AP found.

In total, the Inflation Reduction Act earmarks $386 billion for green energy and climate change-related initiatives. One-hundred-sixty-one billion dollars of that money goes to clean electricity tax credits, while $36 billion goes to tax credits for electric cars.

Just 10 percent of respondents said they live in a household with solar panels or drive an electric car. Although nearly 75 percent of respondents said they are using energy-efficient appliances or reducing driving and air-conditioning use, the main reason was saving money rather than stopping climate change.

"I ran for president promising to make government work for working families again, and that is what this bill does—period," Biden said this month.

Other than climate-change-related spending, the Inflation Reduction Act allocates $80 billion to double the size of the IRS's workforce. Should the IRS find enough staffers to join the agency, it will employ more bureaucrats than the Pentagon, the State Department, the FBI, and the Border Patrol combined.