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Record number of Americans see climate change as a current threat

Data: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

More Americans are very worried about global warming and say the issue is personally important to them than ever before, according to a new poll released Tuesday.

Why it matters: The polling may indicate that extreme weather events — coupled with a series of grim scientific findings — over the past year are starting to change peoples' minds about climate change, which could have significant implications for any significant climate legislation passing Congress.

The big picture: The key finding from the new survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication is that Americans increasingly view global warming as a present-day threat to them, rather than an issue that will affect future generations. Nearly half of Americans (46%) said they personally experienced the effects of global warming — a 15-point spike since March 2015.

  • In addition, 48% of Americans think people in the U.S. are being harmed by global warming "right now," an increase of 16 points since March 2015, and by nine points since the previous survey in March 2018.
  • This message also comes through in a separate poll released Tuesday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, which found that Americans' experience with extreme weather events in their backyard helps determine their views on climate change.

By the numbers:

  • About 7 in 10 Americans (72%) say the issue of global warming is either "extremely," "very," or "somewhat" important to them personally, which is a record high in the Yale-George Mason poll.
  • The proportion of Americans who view global warming as personally important has increased by 16 points since March 2015, and by nine points since the groups' previous survey in March 2018.
  • More than half of Americans (57%) understand that most scientists agree that global warming is happening, the highest level since 2008.
  • About seven in 10 Americans say they are at least "somewhat worried" about global warming. About three in 10 are "very worried" about it, the highest level since 2008.
  • About 65% of Americans think global warming is affecting weather in the U.S., including 58% who either think global warming is affecting U.S. weather "a lot" or "some."

Go deeper: Axios' Deep Dive on climate change