According to an international survey by the Pew Research Center, about four in 10 US citizens who are on the right politically would prioritise protecting the environment, even if it caused slower economic growth and some loss of jobs, compared with 87% of those on the left. Only one in five people with right-wing political views said they had a lot of trust in scientists, compared with more than six in 10 people on the left, in the US.
The US is more sharply divided along political lines when it comes to science and environmental issues than in other parts of the world. Globally, people who see themselves on the left side of politics are more likely to be concerned about the environment than those who see themselves as being on the right or in the centre ground. In Europe, Australia, Canada, Brazil and South Korea, the divide was much less marked. Of those on the right in the UK, 68% would prioritise the environment, similar to the numbers in Italy, Sweden, Poland, Spain and France. On the left in the UK, 84% would prioritise environmental protection, similar to the proportion in other European countries.
Overall, there was still a clear majority who supported protecting the environment in the US, at nearly two-thirds (64%) of the population, with a similar number (63%) saying the government was doing too little to address the climate crisis. About half of respondents said climate change was a very serious problem, and that human activity contributed a great deal to climate change.
The Pew results show that people in 20 nations around the world have a strong regard for scientists generally, with about eight in 10 globally saying government investment in scientific research was worthwhile.
Cary Funk, the director of science and society research at Pew, said: “These findings showcase the generally positive views that publics around the world hold for scientists and their work, as well as ideological fault lines in many places over how much to trust scientists.”