Majority believes U.S. is wrong not to support Kyoto Treaty, poll finds

ROCHESTER, N.Y., Oct. 24, 2002 — If this were a typical election year, the environment might well be a significant issue in this fall’s elections.

A large majority of the public believes that global warming is a real threat. Most of the people who have seen, heard or read of the Kyoto and Bonn agreements to limit the emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases approve of them.

And a clear 54% to 30% majority of respondents thinks that the government is wrong not to accept the international agreements.

However, with the focus on Iraq and the war on terrorism, this is a very atypical election year. In our annual question about the importance of different issues, very few people mention the environment.

These are the results of The Harris Poll® a nationwide telephone survey conducted by Harris Interactive (from September 19 – 23, 2002 with a sample of 1,011 adults.

The main findings of this survey include:

* Most people (85%) say they have seen, heard or read about the theory of global warming.

* The great majority (74%) of those who have seen, heard or read about global warming say that they believe in the theory that increased carbon dioxide and other gases will lead to global warming and an increase in average temperatures.

* Of those who have seen, heard or read about global warming, approximately half (52%) say they have seen, heard or read about recent international agreements in Kyoto and Bonn to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. However, this represents a decline from previous year, when 58% said they had heard of these agreements.

* Of the people who have heard about the Kyoto or Bonn agreements, a large majority (73% to 20%) approves of them.

* Of those who have heard of the Kyoto and Bonn agreements, a 54% to 30% majority now thinks that the U.S. government was wrong not to accept these agreements. This is an increase in public criticism of the government. Last year showed a much narrower (46% to 42%) plurality thinking the government position was wrong.

* Feelings about the U.S. government position on global warming vary substantially by party, with 70% of Democrats and 56% of Independents thinking that the U.S. government position is wrong, while a 49% to 37% plurality of Republicans thinks the U.S. government position is right. However, it should be noted that half of the Republicans who answered this question did not think that the government position was right.

One other important point is worth making: Only 44% of all adults (52% of 85%) remember having heard about the Kyoto or Bonn agreements to limit greenhouse gas emissions. While most of these people are critical of the government’s failure to support them, they are a minority.

About the Harris Poll®

The Harris Poll® was conducted by telephone within the United States between September 19 and 23, 2002, among a nationwide cross section of 1,011 adults (18+). Figures for age, sex, race, education, number of adults and number of voice/telephone lines in the household were weighted where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population.

In theory, with a probability sample of this size, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the results have a statistical precision of plus or minus 3 percentage points of what they would be if the entire adult population had been polled with complete accuracy.

Unfortunately, there are several other possible sources of error in all polls or surveys that are probably more serious than theoretical calculations of sampling error. They include refusals to be interviewed (non-response), question wording and question order, interviewer bias, weighting by demographic control data and screening (e.g., for likely voters). It is impossible to quantify the errors that may result from these factors.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

About Harris Interactive®

Harris Interactive ( is a worldwide market research and consulting firm best known for The Harris Poll®, and for pioneering the Internet method to conduct scientifically accurate market research. Headquartered in Rochester, New York, U.S.A., Harris Interactive combines proprietary methodologies and technology with expertise in predictive, custom and strategic research. The Company conducts international research through wholly owned subsidiaries-London-based HI Europe ( and Tokyo-based Harris Interactive Japan-as well as through the Harris Interactive Global Network of local market-and opinion-research firms, and various U.S. offices.

To become a member of the Harris Poll OnlineSM and be invited to participate in future online surveys, visit

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