Nearly Two in Three in US Say Winter Was Warmer This Year

Nearly Two in Three in US Say Winter Was Warmer This Year

Nearly Two in Three in US Say Winter Was Warmer This Year

The FINANCIAL -- The 2016-2017 winter season was among the warmest on record across most of the U.S., and many Americans felt it: Nearly two in three (64%) say that winter temperatures in their local area were "warmer than usual."

More of them, 35% of all Americans, attribute the warmer weather this winter to climate change, than to normal, year-to-year temperature variations (27%).

While most Americans report having experienced warmer-than-usual temperatures, 22% of Americans say the winter's temperatures were "about the same," while 13% say they were "colder than usual."

These data, collected March 1-5 as part of Gallup's annual Environment poll, are similar to what Americans reported in 2016, another winter when most of the country experienced above-average temperatures.

Americans' assessments of winter temperatures, as measured each March for the past six years, have varied. In 2012, 2016 and 2017, the large majority said that temperatures were warmer than usual, while in 2014 and 2015, the view was that temperatures were colder than usual. Views in 2013 were mixed, according to Gallup.

Generally, Americans' perceptions of temperature increases have been in line with the departure from January and February's temperature average, as recorded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Americans in the West More Likely to Have Experienced a Colder Winter

While the Southeast Regional Climate Center found that many cities across the country -- especially in the East -- had one of their warmest winters this season, this was not the case for certain areas in the Northwest, which experienced one of their coldest winters.

This bears out in how Americans living in different regions respond to the question. Large majorities of adults living in the East (82%), Midwest (78%) and South (73%) reported experiencing a warmer than usual winter, but just 21% of residents in the West said the same. Forty percent of Western residents said temperatures in their area were colder than usual and 37% said they were about the same.

Party Differences Over the Cause of Warmer Temperatures

Similar percentages of Republicans (61%), independents (64%) and Democrats (68%) say that temperatures were warmer than usual this winter. But these party groups differ over what caused the warmer temperatures.

Democrats are more inclined to attribute warmer temperatures to human-caused climate change, while Republicans generally see them as a result of normal variations in temperature.

Bottom Line

According to NASA and the NOAA, 2016 had the warmest global surface temperature in modern record keeping. These trends appeared to carry over into the 2016-2017 winter, and a majority of Americans reported feeling the warmth.

Americans tend to attribute the unusually warm temperatures to human-caused climate change rather than normal variation in temperatures. But these perceptions are strongly influenced by one's political leanings. While Republicans and Democrats are about as likely to say the weather was warmer this season, they disagree on what caused it.

The politicization of this issue is reflected in the reversal of federal policies on climate change under the current Republican president, who is undoing many climate-conscious initiatives of his Democratic predecessor, from rewriting carbon emissions rules to minimizing the role climate change will have in decision-making across the government.