Most Americans don't support warming-focused civil disobedience -- poll

Nearly 6 in 10 Americans wouldn't support a group "engaging in non-violent civil disobedience" to protest government or business actions that exacerbate climate change, according to a report released today by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities.

The fifth in the universities' series of reports, based on a national survey conducted in April about public perceptions of global warming, also found that one-third of Americans say they discuss the changing climate occasionally or often with friends and family. That result marks a 4-point rise since the September 2012 edition but remains 8 percentage points below the high-water mark of November 2008.

The results of the civil disobedience questions -- which asked respondents to assume that "a person you like and respect" asked for support of nonviolent protest groups -- could offer a window into the success of environmentalists' ongoing campaign to defeat the Keystone XL oil sands crude pipeline linking Alberta with the Gulf Coast. Green groups first aligned to back nonviolent demonstration against the $5.3 billion project in 2011, staging a sit-in at the White House, and earlier this year, the Sierra Club's board of directors approved the first civil disobedience in its century-long existence, aimed at pushing President Obama to veto KXL.

The Yale-George Mason survey divided its respondent base into the "Six Americas" of climate change, reflecting several categories of thought concerning the issue: Alarmed, Concerned, Cautious, Disengaged, Doubtful and Dismissive. In a reflection of their status as the most engaged in and knowledgeable about climate science, 53 percent of the Alarmed segment reported that they would definitely or probably support civil disobedience efforts with 29 percent also reporting that they would personally engage in such protests.

The share of respondents from other categories who would definitely or probably back civil disobedience, however, fell to 32 percent among the Concerned, 20 percent among the Cautious, 15 percent among the Disengaged, and 6 percent among the Doubtful, the report states.


Overall, 24 percent of respondents -- which the authors of the report described as "many Americans" -- said they would definitely or probably support climate-focused civil disobedience.

The Yale-George Mason report also found that two-thirds of the Alarmed segment had talked about a company's "irresponsible environmental behavior" with family or friends over the past year, compared with 31 percent of the Concerned, 20 percent of the Cautious and 15 percent of the Doubtful.

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