Climate Change

Measuring Pope Francis’ Climate Impact

Pope Francis’ visit to the United States has had a clear impact on the way American view the threat of climate change, according to a new report from the National Surveys on Energy and Environment (NSEE).

Conducted by the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College, the report compiles eight years of survey data mapping the association between religious beliefs and acceptance of climate change. Additionally, the authors include a survey conducted around the time of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.

So did the Pope’s visit sway public opinion? After considering the studies, the authors believe the Pope’s stop in the United States may have significantly altered Americans’ views. Following his visit, polling found 15% of survey respondents “are now more convinced global warming is happening and that we should act to address this matter.”

Dating back to Francis’ predecessor Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States in 2008, there has been a drastic shift in political attitudes toward climate change, as well as an increased demand for real solutions. According to the report, even among evangelical Christians—one of the most conservative constituencies in the country—acceptance of climate change rose 16 percent during the Pope’s visit to the United States.

This increase is significant because evangelical Christians have consistently numbered among the religious groups least likely to embrace climate science. But Americans of all faiths are quickly waking up to the harsh realities of a changing climate. Today, we have politicians working toward solutions, such as the Clean Power Plan, and a clear majority of Americans understand climate change is a problem that requires concrete plans.

This study, and others like it, show a rapid shift in attitudes among those traditionally opposed to climate action. According to a study conducted by Echelon Insights, North Star Opinion Research, and Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of ClearPath, 72 percent of Republicans surveyed said they support action to build a clean energy economy in the United States. This is no “temporary spike in acceptance,” and these are numbers the GOP can’t ignore. Have faith that they will listen up and produce a plan before it’s too late.

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