To explore public knowledge and perceptions about climate change, University of New Hampshire researchers conducted the first Polar, Environment, and Science (POLES) survey in August 2016. A random sample of U.S. adults were asked for their views regarding science, climate change, sources of information, current problems, and possible solutions. In addition, the survey tested basic geographical knowledge related to polar regions, such as whether the United States has a significant population living in the Arctic, and what respondents know about the location of the North Pole.

In this brief, author Lawrence Hamilton reports that fewer than one in five Americans knows that their country includes territory with thousands of people living in the Arctic. Fewer than half understand the locations of the North or South Poles. A majority recognizes that Arctic sea ice is declining and CO2 levels are rising, but knowledge of these scientific facts varies depending on political preference. More than 60 percent agree that human activities are changing Earth’s climate. Public acceptance of the scientific consensus on climate change has been gradually rising in recent years. The gaps between Trump and Clinton supporters are wide on scientific and policy questions alike, including whether scientists can be trusted for information, and whether climate change, from any source, is causing problems now. Supporters of Donald Trump are less likely to trust scientists for information about climate change, to think that climate change is causing important problems, or to support actions to reduce its risks. But despite sharp political divisions, there is broad and rising public recognition of climate-change problems and of the need to shift our energy use in response.

Publication Date

Fall 10-11-2016


National Issue Brief No. 107


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



Copyright 2016. Carsey School of Public Policy. These materials may be used for the purposes of research, teaching, and private study. For all other uses, contact the copyright holder.





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.