Evangelical Conversion on Climate Change

When it comes to climate change, the Evangelical community has long been an outlier among American social groups. That all changed dramatically this year. In the short span of six months, evangelicals have swung from a minority of 49% accepting that global warming is happening, to fully 65% acceptance. They are now slightly more likely than mainstream Protestants to believe in climate science, and almost as likely as the average American, 70% of whom affirm that global warming is happening.

The poll conducted by the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College has been compiled every six months since 2008. While evangelicals initially held beliefs very similar to those of Catholics, Protestants and other Americans, the gap widened in 2012, with evangelicals falling 10-15% below other religious groups.

But as of November 2015, evangelicals now fall squarely in the mainstream of climate science. Of greater importance, evangelicals affirm a moral obligation in connection with climate change. 68% of evangelicals now say that the US has a moral obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


The Michigan/Muhlenberg polling organization summarized its finding as follows:

  1. Acceptance of global warming is up among all Americans, regardless of creed. The most notable gains in the last six months, however, have been among Evangelical Christians, whose belief rose 16 points from 49% in Spring 2015 to 65% this Fall, considerably narrowing the gap between Americans of different faiths.
  2. Pope Francis and his call to action on the issue of climate change may have contributed to this rise in acceptance, with 15% of Americans saying they are now more convinced global warming is happening and that we should act to address this matter as a result of the Papal Encyclical.
  3. Americans are more likely to tie their attitudes about climate change to moral convictions, rather than religious beliefs. While less than a quarter (23%) of Americans say their religious beliefs affect their views on how government should deal with the issue of global warming, 75% agree that rich countries like the US have a moral obligation to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
  4. Fewer than half (49%) of Americans think religious leaders should discuss environmental issues within the context of their faith, but most (60%) support Pope Francis’ call to action to address global warming.

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