Climate change is bringing a host of adverse consequences to Indiana communities—more frequent rainfall, increased risk of flooding, more days of extreme heat, and new stressors to agricultural production, among others. Confronting these challenges through policy depends largely on Hoosiers’ awareness and acceptance of climate change’s impact.
A 2019 statewide survey commissioned by the Environmental Resilience Institute, part of Indiana University’s Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge initiative, offers a look into Hoosiers’ attitudes toward climate change. The online panel survey, the first of its kind conducted in the state, aggregates more than 1,000 responses from across Indiana.
Survey results indicate that a clear majority of Hoosiers acknowledge climate change is happening (80 percent) and support efforts to address it (75 percent). Furthermore, a majority of survey respondents (60 percent) recognize that climate change is already causing harm in the United States.
Indiana residents report these convictions despite significantly underestimating how many of their fellow Hoosiers’ accept the reality of climate change and being split on the question of whether most scientists agree on the issue.
A majority of Hoosiers recognize threats posed by climate change
Eighty percent of Hoosiers recognize that climate change is happening at least to some degree, and nearly half of survey respondents say it’s happening to a great extent. Fewer than 15 percent of respondents think that climate change is happening “very little” or not at all.
Sixty-five percent of respondents said they agree with the statement, “I think climate change is happening more so than I did five years ago.” About 60 percent of Hoosiers state that the effects of climate change—flooding, drought, hotter summers, and intense allergy seasons—pose threats to the livelihoods of residents and farmers, with 71 percent agreeing that Indiana weather has become less predictable in recent decades.
Even more Hoosiers (77 percent) acknowledge that climate change will have at least some impact on the Indiana economy.
Hoosiers broadly support efforts to address climate change
Of Hoosiers surveyed, 41 percent report they “somewhat” support general initiatives to prepare for climate change and 34 percent indicate they support efforts “to a great extent.”
When asked about specific policies rather than general initiatives, Indiana residents offer slightly increased support: 78 percent support policies that seek to lessen the impact of flooding; 82 percent support policies that seek to lessen the damage to agriculture and crops; and 85 percent support policies that seek to mitigate increased disease risks from pests, such as mosquitoes.
Hoosiers underestimate fellow residents’ acceptance of climate change
On average, Indiana residents estimate that only 56 percent of Hoosiers accept the reality of climate change—undershooting the surveyed percentage of actual climate change acceptance by 30 percent.
In addition, Hoosiers who think climate change is not happening estimate on average that only 43 percent of Indiana residents hold the opposing view, meaning they tend to assume the majority of Hoosiers do not acknowledge the reality of climate change.
Political identity moderates Hoosiers’ beliefs on climate issues
Though Hoosiers generally agree that Indiana’s climate is changing, there is less agreement on whether the scientific community has reached a consensus on the issue. Just over half (52 percent) of Indiana residents say most scientists think climate change is happening. However, 30 percent of Hoosiers state that there is a lot of disagreement among scientists, and 7 percent report most scientists don’t think climate change is happening at all.
There is a strong link between a Hoosier’s political identity and his or her views on climate change. Sixty-six percent of Republicans compared to 91 percent of Democrats accept that climate change is happening to some degree, but only 29 percent of Republicans perceive it is happening to a great extent compared to 67 percent of Democrats. When asked how soon they think climate change will cause harm to people in the US, 72 percent of Democrats agree climate change is already causing harm compared to 44 percent of Republicans.
Political affiliation also has a correlation to Hoosiers’ understanding of the scientific consensus around climate change. More than twice as many Republicans surveyed (41 percent) state there is a lot of disagreement among scientists as Democrats surveyed (17 percent).
Finally, political party affiliation seems to mark a persistent gap in beliefs and attitudes toward action to combat climate change, with Democrats expressing higher levels of support for policies to address climate change. Fifty-two percent of Democrats surveyed support general initiatives to prepare for the effects of climate change “to a great extent” compared to 23 percent of Republicans.
The Environmental Resilience Institute commissioned Atomik Research, an independent creative market research agency, to conduct an online survey of 1,002 Indiana residents. The margin of error fell within +/- 3 percentage points with a confidence interval of 95 percent. The fieldwork with the online panel took place between April 3 and April 10, 2019.
The Environmental Resilience Institute is supported by IU's Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge, which brings together a broad, bipartisan coalition of government, business, nonprofit and community leaders to help Indiana better prepare for the challenges that environmental change brings to our economy, health and livelihood.