Most Americans say the United States ought to take a leadership role in combating global warming, and by a margin of two-to-one think the country should participate in international treaty negotiations aimed at addressing its effects, according to a new environment poll from The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. 

However, Americans tend to place a low priority on addressing global warming when compared with other environmental concerns. And few Americans believe that protecting the environment needs to come at a cost of lost economic growth.

"Public understanding of environmental issues—from global warming to water pollution to the loss of biodiversity—is more important than ever, as many Americans work to create a more sustainable future," says Anthony Leiserowitz, a research scientist and faculty member at The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. "Policies are being considered at the national, state, and local levels, and Americans are increasingly adopting environmentally friendly lifestyles. This new poll will help inform these vital decisions."

Key findings from the poll include:

  • 56 percent of Americans believe global warming is happening, and 20 percent believe it is not happening. Almost a quarter, 23 percent, are unsure.
  • About twice as many Americans favor US participation in international climate negotiations as oppose it.
  • A majority of Americans say environmental protections will improve economic growth and provide new jobs in the long run.
  • Americans are mixed on whether construction of the Keystone XL pipeline should proceed. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to support it. A quarter of Americans are confident it will be a safe way to transport heavy oil.