Survey: Most believe companies can help combat climate change
Americans want to buy from and work for those that try
Most Americans believe companies can make a difference in combating climate change, and they want to buy from and work for those companies that try, according to the latest Media & Technology Survey from Boston University’s College of Communication and Ipsos.
By a four-to-one margin, more Americans agreed (60% strongly or somewhat) than disagreed (15%) that corporate initiatives to address climate change will make a difference. People who believe in climate change caused by human activity also overwhelmingly agree (78% somewhat or strongly) that corporate initiatives to combat climate change can make a difference.
More than half of Americans (53%) strongly or somewhat agreed that buying products and services from companies that work to combat climate change was important. Only 17% strongly or somewhat disagreed. Furthermore, people who believe in climate change caused by human activity say they are willing to make a statement about climate change with their wallets: nearly 74% said that it was important to them to buy products and services from companies that are helping combat climate change.
Half said it was important that their employer “does the right thing” to combat the climate crisis, while 15% strongly or somewhat disagreed. More than two-thirds (68%) of those who believe in climate change created by human activity somewhat or strongly agreed that it was important.
“In an era of The Great Resignation and quiet-quitting, and employee activism on the rise, companies’ climate change policies may be a difference maker in attracting and retaining top talent,” says Arunima Krishna, assistant professor at Boston University’s College of Communication. “As more companies focus their communications internally to build culture and community among their workforce, the intersections between corporate policies and initiatives and companies’ attractiveness as employers are noteworthy.”
Americans also trust companies to do the right thing by the environment but by thinner margins: 44% strongly or somewhat trusted companies “to do the right thing about their environmental policies and initiatives” and 30% strongly or somewhat disagreed.
“Given Americans’ belief that companies can make a difference in combating climate change, it’s no surprise corporations are increasingly attempting to shape public views on their environmental and sustainability bona fides,” says Michelle Amazeen, associate professor and director of the Communication Research Center at Boston University’s College of Communication. “But while corporate social responsibility may sound good in an ad campaign, is it just greenwashing? We need to take a close look at the nature of claims being made about climate science and climate mitigation policies and practices to further understand the critical role of communication – including corporate communication – in shaping public opinion on climate in the U.S.”
When it came to their investments, Americans were less sure. Twice as many strongly or somewhat agreed that it was important their personal and retirement investments are with companies that take action to fight the climate crisis (42% vs. 20%), but more than a third (35%) fell in the middle. More than half (57%) of those who believe in climate change and that it is caused by human activity said investing in this way was important to them.
Four in 10 of respondents (42%) indicated they personally know someone who has accepted climate misinformation, particularly among those who believe climate change is due to human activities (46%). This experience was more visible among men (48%) than women (37%), among younger respondents (18-34, 49%) than those 55 or older (38%), and among those college educated (52%) versus not (34%).
Of those who do not believe climate change is happening or that climate change is not caused by human activity, four in 10 also report personally knowing someone who has accepted climate change misinformation.
“This raises the question of whether climate change deniers have come across climate change believers and dismissed them as misinformed,” Krishna says. “Research has shown that exposure to information to the contrary can in fact strengthen one’s opinions. This finding indicates that climate change deniers’ views on climate change may be becoming more entrenched and thus resistant to change. Although believers outnumber deniers in the population, people who hold contrarian views tend to have an outsized voice in issue debates.”
Half of respondents (50%) indicated they have tried to provide accurate information to someone who has shared misinformation; this was more likely among men (54%) than women (45%). Providing accurate information is also more likely among younger respondents under the age of 55 (18-34, 55% and 35-54, 52%) than those 55 or older (43%) as well as among those in urban (54%) rather than rural (43%) areas. This action was more likely among those who believe climate change is due to human activities (58%) than those who do not (43%).
“While we know that corrections can be effective in reducing community misperceptions when responding to misinformation, I’m pleasantly surprised to see how many climate believers are reporting that they are actively trying to do so,” Amazeen adds.
About four out of 10 respondents (39%) feel they are equipped to refute climate change misinformation. This sentiment is more prevalent among men (50%) than women (29%), among the college educated (49%) versus not (31%), and among those who identify as Democrats (48%) rather than Republicans (35%) or independents (32%). Those who believe climate change is due to human activities also were more likely to report feeling equipped to refute climate change misinformation (44%) than those who do not (35%)
Four in 10 respondents (40%) believe that trying to convince people who are misinformed about climate change is a waste of time. This feeling was more prevalent among men (48%) than women (33%), among adults 55 and older (46%), and among the college educated (47%). Those who believe climate change is due to human activities are less likely to feel it’s a waste of time (37%) than those who do not (49%).
Twice as many respondents believe climate change is due to human activities (59%) than those who believe it’s caused by natural phenomena (28%). Only 5% deny climate change is real.
Those attributing climate change to human activities are more likely to be college educated (63%) than not (55%), more likely to be Democrats (82%) than independent (55%) or Republican (34%), and more likely to live in urban (65%) or suburban (62%) than rural (44%) areas. Those who attribute climate change to natural phenomena tend to be 55 or older (33%) than younger 18-34 (22%).
Available for Interviews
Michelle A. Amazeen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, College of Communication, Boston University
Director, Communication Research Center, Boston University
Faculty Affiliate, Center for Innovation in Social Science
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Master Lecturer, College of Communication, Boston University
Owner, Strategic Opinion Research
Consultant, American Consumer Institute
Arunima Krishna, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, College of Communication, Boston University
Editorial Board, Journal of Public Relations Research and Health Communication
Advisory Committee, International Public Relations Research Conference
Chris Wells, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, College of Communication, Boston University
Founding Member, Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences, Boston University
Research Co-Lead, Data and Misinformation in an Era of Sustainability and Climate Change Crises, Boston University
Contact: Burt Glass, firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-358-0460
About the Media & Technology Survey
The Media & Technology Survey is an ongoing project of the Communication Research Center (CRC) at Boston University’s College of Communication, in partnership with Ipsos, the market research company. This month’s poll was conducted in English on November 1, 2022, using Ipsos eNation Omnibus, a nationally representative online survey that measures attitudes and opinions of 1,000 adults across the United States. This online survey has a credibility interval (CI) of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The data were weighted to the U.S. population data by region, gender, age, and education. Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error.