Americans don't really think global warming is a big deal

The Week

The rest of the world sees it as a serious threat. Americans aren't so sure

President Obama calls climate change "the global threat of our time." Americans don't quite agree with that assessment.

In a Pew poll released Monday, only 40 percent of Americans said global climate change was a "major threat." That placed it behind financial instability, Islamic extremism, and China's influence — and just above "political instability in Pakistan" (37 percent) — on a list of other potential threats Pew tested.

While Americans didn't think too much of global warming, the world as a whole did. Among the 39 countries Pew surveyed combined, climate change was viewed as the number one threat.

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That finding, which came one day before Obama laid out an aggressive plan to combat climate change and reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S., isn't all that surprising. Gallup has in recent years found Americans lukewarm to the idea that global warming is a problem.

A March survey found that a combined 55 percent of Americans said they worried a "great deal" or a "fair amount" about global warming. Yet that figure was way down from the high of 72 percent recorded back in 2000.

Americans' opinion on the subject split largely along party lines. While 42 percent of Democrats in that Gallup poll said they worried about global warming a great deal, 40 percent of Republicans said they didn't worry about it at all.

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