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More in U.S. believe in global warming

By Staff Writer (Associated Press) - December 17, 2012

A growing majority of Americans think that global warming is occurring, that it will become a serious problem and that the U.S. government should do something about it, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds.

Even most people who say they don’t trust scientists on the environment say temperatures are rising.

The poll found 4 out of every 5 Americans said climate change will be a serious problem for the United States if nothing is done about it. That’s up from 73 percent when the same question was asked in 2009.

And 57 percent of Americans say the U.S. government should do a great deal or quite a bit about the problem. That’s up from 52 percent in 2009. Only 22 percent of those surveyed think little or nothing should be done, a figure that dropped from 25 percent.

Overall, 78 percent of those surveyed said they believe temperatures are rising, up from 75 percent three years earlier. In general, U.S. belief in global warming, according to AP-GfK and other polls, has fluctuated over the years but has stayed between about 70 and 85 percent.

The biggest change in the polling is among people who trust scientists only a little or not at all. About 1 in 3 of the people surveyed fell into that category.

Within that highly skeptical group, 61 percent now say temperatures have been rising over the past 100 years. That’s a substantial increase from 2009, when the AP-GfK poll found that only 47 percent of those with little or no trust in scientists believed the world was getting warmer.

This is an important development because, often in the past, opinion about climate change doesn’t move much in core groups – like those who deny it exists and those who firmly believe it’s an alarming problem, said Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University social psychologist and pollster. Krosnick, who consulted with the Associated Press on the poll questions, said the changes the poll shows aren’t in the hard-core “antiwarming” deniers, but in the next group, who had serious doubts.

“They don’t believe what the scientists say, they believe what the thermometers say,” Krosnick said. “Events are helping these people see what scientists thought they had been seeing all along.”

Only 45 percent of those surveyed think President Obama will take major action to fight climate change in his second term, slightly more than the 41 percent who don’t think he will act.

Broken down by political party, 83 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Republicans say the world is getting warmer. And 77 percent of independents say temperatures are rising. Among scientists who write about the issue in peer-reviewed literature, the belief in global warming is about 97 percent, according to a 2010 scientific study.

The AP-GfK poll was conducted Nov. 29-Dec. 3 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell-phone interviews with 1,002 adults nationwide. Results for the full sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points; the margin of error is larger for subgroups.