Poll: Americans don't really care what scientists think about global warming

In the Pew Research Center’s 2006 poll on whether Americans believe human activity is causing global warming, 47 percent of the public hewed to the scientific consensus. But when Pew asked again this March, only 42 percent were on board.

And in Stanford University’s long-standing poll of climate opinions, faith in climate change is on the wane as well. In 2006, 85 percent of respondents said they believed global temperatures were increasing (the survey didn’t ask whether that warming is human-induced). This year, that figure fell to 82 percent, and it was down to 73 percent in 2012.

The growing gap is alarming, but hardly surprising. As they evaluate global warming, most people aren’t thumbing through U.N. reports or calling their local climate scientists. In fact, there’s mass misunderstanding over what scientists think about global warming: In Pew’s 2012 survey, fewer than half of all respondents thought scientists generally believed human activity is heating the globe.

Instead, people are getting their climate cues from their preferred media outlets and elected officials. And so, the public’s climate-change confidence is divorced from climate science and increasingly wedded to the political debate.