New Survey on SD's Climate Change Attitudes

San Diegans Support Community Action to Address the Impacts of Climate Change and Maintain Quality of Life for Future Generations
Climate Education Partners Releases Second in a Series of Findings from Countywide Public Opinion Research on San Diego Views on Climate Change Impacts

SAN DIEGO -- Climate Education Partners (San Diego Region) released findings today from a recent public opinion poll regarding the impacts of climate change on the San Diego region. The group conducted a countywide public opinion survey of over 1,200 San Diego residents to better understand their views of climate science and the impacts of climate change. This is the second poll to assess and track the views of San Diegans throughout the region on these issues. The survey found that San Diegans continue to be more aware than others throughout the US that climate change is occurring, and that the changing climate poses significant threats to the region’s clean air, water and quality of life, especially for future generations.

“In light of high-profile, extreme weather events, like the east coast’s Hurricane Sandy,” stated Climate Education Partners lead scientist Dr. Michel Boudrias, Chair of the University of San Diego’s Department of Marine Science and Environmental Studies, “the survey suggests residents are increasingly aware of changes in the climate that impact our region resulting in increased temperatures, sea level rise, water shortages and wildfires. At the same time, respondents continue to see San Diego as a leader in this area, and express confidence in the ability for individuals and communities to address problems associated with the impacts of climate change.”

According to the survey, four out of five San Diegans (84%) agree that climate change is happening – a proportion essentially identical to the 2011 survey, when 85% expressed the same agreement. These sentiments are very strongly felt, with nearly one-third of County residents indicating they are ‘extremely’ sure climate change is happening. Furthermore, San Diegans know climate change is most likely caused by human activities, with a clear plurality of San Diego County residents (48%) agreeing. In addition, the vast majority of San Diegans think that climate change will harm them personally, with nearly half (48%) believing it will cause them at least moderate harm.

San Diegans also know many key scientific facts about climate change science are true. San Diegans broadly endorse many facts that inform the scientific understanding of climate change, and reject evidence that runs counter to scientific evidence, according to another question from the poll.

Consistent with the prior poll, San Diegans are most concerned about the effect of climate change on future generations. When given a list of people or things they are concerned about being affected by climate change, majorities of San Diegans rated ‘future generations’ and ‘children’ highest on the list.

Fifty-eight percent of San Diegans indicated they believe their personal actions can reduce the negative outcomes associated with climate change in the next forty years. This suggests that education that highlights what individuals can specifically do to reduce the negative outcomes is still valuable to our community.

“In San Diego, quality of life is something we treasure. It’s defined by the clean air we breathe, the beaches bays and mountains where we recreate and the pleasant temperatures we enjoy year-round,” stated Mike McDade, business leader and chair of the project’s Advisory Board. “The impacts of climate change in the San Diego region could affect our economy, jobs, beaches, bays, air quality and water supplies. Climate Education Partners is working with local expert scientists, educators and a wide range of community leaders, helping San Diegans learn more about how to prepare for and respond to the impacts of a changing climate. Together, we can sustain our region’s quality of life, economic vibrancy and spectacular natural beauty, not just today, but for all future generations.”

Overall, the survey results suggest that while climate change might not be the most top-of-mind issue for San Diego County residents, they are concerned about the issue and clearly come down on the side of taking action to mitigate and prepare for its effects. In fact, compared to previous opinion research done at the national level, the survey found that San Diegans are generally more concerned than other Americans about the threats posed by climate change, and are more supportive of efforts to address these threats, than are citizens of the country at-large.[1]

This second county-wide survey is part of a project funded by the National Science Foundation to develop innovative communication and education strategies to provide better understanding of climate science and climate change impacts in the region and help communities and their leaders make informed decisions. Climate Education Partnership includes scientists from Marine Science and Environmental Studies at the University of San Diego (USD) and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, policy experts from the Energy Policy Initiative Center at USD, social and behavioral psychologists from California State University San Marcos, strategic community planners from The San Diego Foundation and strategic communication experts from The Steve Alexander Group.

From December 9-19, 2012, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) and Public Opinion Strategies (POS) completed 1,211 telephone interviews with adult residents of San Diego County. Interviews were conducted on landline and cellular telephones in English and Spanish. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 2.8%, margins of error for other subgroups within the sample will be higher. The survey followed a similar baseline survey of San Diego residents conducted in October 2011. Click to see the Final Findings.

[1] Global Warming's Six Americas in May 2011. Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, 27 June 2011.

About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 8,000 students from 75 countries and 44 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. USD’s eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD recently concluded our successful $317M Leading Change: The Campaign for USD, which represented the most ambitious fundraising effort in the history of the university. In September 2016, USD introduced Envisioning 2024, a strategic plan that capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.


Pamela Gray Payton
(619) 260-4681