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Americans find some sacrifices easier than others in climate change fight

Most Americans think climate change is an issue that people should proactively do something about. When asked to choose between general approaches like the environment and climate, 58% of Americans think people should try to do things to shape and change it, while just 42% think people should simply learn to adapt to what happens and make the best of it. Americans of all ages tend to agree on this.

And regardless of what age group they fall into, most Americans think they have a responsibility to take care of the environment for those who might come after them. Seventy-two percent think their generation should make at least some sacrifices in order to take care of the environment for future generations.

But as to what specifically they themselves are willing to do, there are some sacrifices most Americans would make, while others are less popular. And there are partisan differences: unlike the majority of Americans, most Republicans think people should learn to adapt and make the best of the environment, and they feel less responsibility for taking care of the environment for future generations. In keeping with this sentiment, Republicans tend to be less willing than Democrats to make specific sacrifices to stop climate change.

Two things most Americans would do to fight climate change: install solar panels and drive less. Sixty-four percent of Americans say they would install solar panels in their homes, and 57% say they would drive less often.

Other measures would meet with more resistance, however. Though a majority would be willing to drive less frequently, most would not go so far as to switch to public transportation. And most Americans are not willing to pay more for their electricity and other utilities, or pay more in taxes. Even fewer — just 30% — would stop eating meat.

Younger adults, who say they feel a greater level of responsibility to future generations to take care of the environment than older American do, show more willingness to make many of these sacrifices. But political affiliation also plays a role in what Americans would do. Most Democrats would be willing to do all of these things except stop eating meat, though half of Democrats under 30 would do that as well. 

While nearly half of Republicans would install solar panels in their homes, most would not do any of the rest. Republicans are particularly resistant to paying more money — either in taxes, or for electricity and other utilities — in the interest of stopping climate change.


This CBS News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 2,003 U.S. residents interviewed between April 13-16, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as the 2020 presidential vote and registration status. The margin of error is ± 2.8 points.

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