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NBC News poll: Split between GOP and Democrats over federal climate action widens

Climate ranked low in terms of voter concerns about the most important issues facing the country, behind threats to democracy, the cost of living and jobs and the economy.
A protester is seen during a climate change demonstration
Activists participate in a "Climate Strike" in Los Angeles in 2019.Ronen Tivony / LightRocket via Getty Images

Two-thirds of Republicans say the federal government does not need to be involved in addressing climate change, according to a national NBC News poll, a number that has jumped sharply in recent years.

The poll also found that 71% of Democrats say the federal government has not done enough to address climate change, although the number of Democrats who say the federal government is doing enough has almost doubled since 2019, to 17%.

The polling shows a deepening rift between the parties over climate change and the government’s role in limiting the greenhouse gasses that scientists say will continue to warm the Earth and change its environment.

Climate, however, ranked low in terms of voter concerns about the most important issues facing the country, behind threats to democracy, the cost of living, jobs and the economy and immigration. 

The NBC News poll, conducted Aug. 12-16 in partnership with Hart Research Associates, asked 1,000 registered voters (750 of them reached by cellphone) about a variety of topics. The poll reported a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

It comes on the heels of the largest U.S. government effort yet to address climate change: a bill signed into law last week by President Joe Biden that includes $369 billion in spending and tax credits over the next 10 years meant to transform U.S. energy production, as well as other provisions to fight climate change.

The poll shows Republicans have further soured on federal government intervention since 2019, when only 40% said they felt the government should not be involved.

Still, 45% of all adults polled said the federal government needs to do more to address climate change.

The split between the parties widens when it comes to support for certain candidates. Specifically, 80% of GOP voters who said they support former President Donald Trump said the federal government does not need to be involved.

Of those who voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., or Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., in the 2020 presidential primary race, 74% said the federal government should be doinga lot” more to address climate change. Only 19% of people who voted for Biden in 2020 said he is doing enough.

Voters’ assessments of Biden’s efforts were also divided along age and gender lines. Almost two-thirds of voters under age 35 said Biden is not doing enough. All other age groups polled were under 50%.

More than 48% of voters of color said Biden has not done enough about climate, compared to 36% of white voters. 

More than half of the GOP voters polled said Biden has gone too far to address climate change.