Half of Fox News viewers believe climate crisis is caused by natural changes, not human activity

Most people in all viewing audiences say global warming and protecting the environment will be important in who they vote for in next month’s presidential election

Louise Boyle
New York
Tuesday 06 October 2020 22:31
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What is causing the climate crisis, and how do we stop it?

Around half of Fox News viewers think the climate crisis is caused by natural changes in the environment and not driven by human activities, according to a new study by Yale University.

The analysis, published on Tuesday, reveals the climate change views of American adults who regularly tune in to each of the major US news networks - CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, the Weather Channel, along with the national nightly news on CBS, ABC or NBC.

One in four people who watch Fox News (25 per cent) think global warming isn’t happening but more than half (53 per cent) agree that it is.

However Fox News viewers are divided on the causes of climate change. Almost half (48 per cent) think it is down to environmental changes instead of human-driven factors like burning fossil fuels, vehicle emissions and deforestation. 

“In all news audiences except that of Fox News, large majorities think global warming is happening and human-caused,” the authors noted.

Despite this only about one in five people in any news audience felt “very well informed” on the climate crisis, the study found.

The majority of viewers who watch CNN, NPR, MSNBC, and nightly network news think the media should be doing more to address global warming, along with a little over half of Weather Channel viewers (51 per cent). 

Only one in three (34 per cent) of Fox News viewers think the media should be doing more.
A new study compares views on climate change from viewers of different TV news sources in the US

Analysis last month by Media Matters, for example, found that over four days of coverage on the California wildfires, just 13 per cent of cable news segments mentioned the link between the unprecedented blazes and the climate crisis. 

Climate change and protecting the environment is also likely to factor in the November election. Most people in all viewing audiences say the issues will be important to their vote for president.

Most of those watching NPR, MSNBC and CNN were “alarmed” or “concerned” about global warming (more than 80 per cent). Most of those viewers also believe that global warming is already harming people in the US.

Fox News regulars reported being “concerned” or “cautious” about climate change (43 per cent) while 36 per cent were “doubtful or dismissive”. 

Those who tune into NPR are the most likely to understand the extent of the scientific consensus on climate change - but even then, this is still a minority of the audience. 

Most viewers underestimate the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming, regardless of who they were tuning into watch.

(Some 97 per cent or more of climate scientists agree: climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities, NASA reports.)

The study was conducted by the Yale program on Climate Change Communication, which examines the public’s attitudes and behaviors towards the climate crisis, both in the US and internationally. 

The findings are based on data from three national surveys conducted in April 2019, November 2019, and April 2020, involving 3,623 participants. 

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