Pew poll: drought and water shortages top climate change concerns

When the Pew Research Center asked people in 40 countries about their greatest worries related to climate change, drought and water shortages topped the list. The 2015 Pew poll also found high levels of concern over severe weather, such as floods and intense storms. But in all regions there was greater worry about the lack of freshwater.

The graphic below shows the regional breakdown. Latin America, Africa and the United States had the highest levels of concern over droughts and water shortages. In most regions, the second most worrisome problem was severe weather.

Pew poll regional graphic

Pew reported country-level data, which I’ve visualized in dashboards on this page. The graphic and map below summarize the data, which show that drought is the top concern in most countries. Heat waves are particularly worrisome in parts of Africa,Asian and the Middle East, while sea level rise is most troubling for richer nations with coastlines, such as France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, South Korea, and the United States. (On the dashboard page, you can sort by these variables.)

Pew poll 2015: climate change effects dashboard 2Pew poll 2015: climate change effects dashboard 1

In its report, the Pew Research Center also provides more detail on the United States. There is some regional difference in concern over droughts and water shortages. Nationally, 50% of Americans say drought is their top worry. But that rate ranges from 63% in the drier West to 39% in the wetter East, as one might expect. The ongoing drought in California and other parts of the West may also be playing a role.

Pew poll 2015: US region drought concern

It’s worth noting that the Pew poll asked respondents which of the problems they were most worried. This was not an open-ended question that asked people to name what climate change threat was most concerning. I can’t quibble with the four main problems that were presented to respondents. Still, it would be interesting to see whether the results stood up in open-ended questioning.

Most of Pew’s survey focused on climate change itself, rather than effects such as droughts and floods. Overall, the survey found strong support for limiting emissions, but there was a partisan divide in some key countries, including the United States:

Pew poll 2015: partisan climate change united statesIt’s not clear from the public data whether there is also a partisan difference for the water-related effects of climate change. Other polling, such as the Conservation in the West survey, has found concern about the water supply cuts across party affiliation. Our post on Gallup’s water-related polling also notes there is less of a partisan divide over water than climate change and some other environmental issues.

Sources aggregates, analyzes, and visualizes public opinion data on water-related issues. Stay informed via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, RSS, and email.