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Earth Day 2023: A Deeper Dive

April 18, 2023

Surveying public sentiment about the climate, doing their part to help the planet, what public perception of brands’ responsibilities towards the planet are, and gauging public reaction to the recently released U.N. synthesis report on climate change.

In celebration of Earth Day on April 22, Big Village surveyed Americans on their concerns about the environment, what they’re doing to help, and what responsibilities they think brands have when it comes to the long-term health of the planet. We took a look at knowledge of and reaction to the United Nations’ recent ‘Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report’. We also explored attitudinal and behavioral differences among Americans based on where they fall across a five-point differential range from ‘climate change is imaginary’ to ‘climate change is real’. (Spoiler alert – Americans are not as far apart in their levels of concern about climate-related issues and their willingness to help the planet as some might think!)

When American adults were asked point-blank at the beginning of the survey (with no pre-amble) whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement: ‘I believe climate change is real,’ five out of six (83%) agreed. When this same topic was addressed using a 5-point differential scale, responses broke out in similar fashion.

While 90% of Americans demonstrated some level of belief that climate change is not imaginary, over half (54%) indicated some level of doubt that climate change is real.

Even among the strongest doubters, substantial concern was demonstrated regarding a number of issues that face the planet today.

Nearly half or more of those who selected ‘Climate change is imaginary’ indicated that they are at least somewhat concerned about each issue mentioned.

When asked, all things being equal, if they had more admiration for companies and brands that have strong values and commitments towards the long-term health of the planet, half or more of each component group indicated they did. Those most strongly averring that climate change is imaginary displayed the same amount of admiration as did all but the most avid believers that climate change is real.

Drilling down further, 3/5ths or more of each group across the climate change is ‘real’ vs. ‘imaginary’ spectrum indicated agreement with each of five statements regarding companies’ and brands’ support of sustainable/environmentally friendly practices.

A key point of agreement: a general feeling that too many brands talk about being environmentally friendly but don’t back that talk up with real actions. It’s important to walk the talk – Americans are taking notice.

Overall, though there are measurable differences between those who believe climate change is real and those who feel it is imaginary, it seems there is the makings of a consensus on the importance of caring for the planet.

How does that translate to Americans’ willingness to ‘do their part’ to help the planet? When offered a list of twelve possible actions/activities they’ve done or are willing to do under the intention of doing their part to help the planet, 80% of Americans reacted positively to at least one of the options (an increase of 6% compared to 2022, based on the same list). Each of the actions/activities but one showed a year-on-year increase.

Gauging public reaction to the recently released U.N. synthesis report on climate change

On March 20th, the United Nations released their ‘Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report’. Nearly half of Americans (48%) indicated at least having heard about the report, and 26% indicated awareness of news stories about the report, seeing or hearing about it or reading at least some of the report.

Interestingly, a week after the report’s release, more Gen Z (61%) and Millennials (52%) were more likely to be aware of the report’s existence than were their older counterparts (42% each of Gen X and Baby Boomers). For Gen Z Americans in particular, given how strongly they lead on ‘climate change’ being real, this seems very telling. Gen Z are concerned about climate change, and they’re keeping themselves informed.

Written by Michael Griffin, Senior Manager, CARAVAN at Big Village