Rasmussen/Heartland Poll: Viewers of Conservative Media More Likely to Get the Facts Right on Climate Change

Justin Haskins Heartland Institute
Published May 13, 2021

From April 29 to May 3, Rasmussen Reports and The Heartland Institute, a national free-market think tank, conducted a nationwide survey of 2,000 likely voters. Included in the poll was a series of questions asking likely voters how they receive news and information, as well as several questions about climate-change-related topics. The following results from the survey illustrate likely voters’ views on these important issues, as well as how those views are correlated with news media preferences.

You can download the full survey results and all crosstabs by clicking here. (We strongly recommend that in addition to considering our summary bullet points below, you download the full results and view the crosstabs for this survey, because this is where you’ll find the crosstabs about media preferences and other important information.)

You can find other results from the same survey, covering topics like police shootings and health care and the economy, by clicking here and here.

Some of The Heartland Institute’s key findings from an analysis of the survey include:

  • There is a strong correlation between a likely voter’s favorite television news outlet and his or her understanding of basic facts about climate change.
  • Compared to viewers of Fox News, “another” cable news outlet, and those who don’t watch television news, viewers of CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC are substantially more likely to believe that if CO2 emissions continue to increase at recent rates, humans will “become completely or nearly extinct due to climate change” within the next 100 years.
  • For example, 58% of MSNBC viewers and more than half of viewers of ABC, CBS, and NBC said they think humanity could become extinct or nearly extinct within a century.
  • About one-quarter of CNN and MSNBC viewers believe humanity could become extinct within 50 years due to climate change.
  • Viewers of CNN and MSNBC are substantially more likely to overestimate the amount of global warming that has occurred since the late 1800s compared to viewers of Fox News or “another” outlet. 65% percent of CNN viewers and 67% of MSNBC viewers overestimated warming by at least 40%, and three in 10 CNN and MSNBC viewers overestimated warming by more than double the real figure.
  • Viewers of ABC, CBS, and NBC were also substantially more likely to overestimate global warming. Six in 10 viewers of these networks overestimated warming trends.
  • Respondents who don’t watch cable news and viewers of Fox News or “another” outlet (such as The Blaze TV or Newsmax) were more likely to correctly estimate the amount of warming that has occurred since the late 1800s. More than four in 10 of the respondents in these three categories answered correctly, compared to about three in 10 viewers of CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC.
  • 55% of likely voters believe climate change is primarily caused by human beings, compared to 45% who believe long-term planetary trends are the main cause.


Climate Change and Media

Survey of 2,000 Likely Voters by Rasmussen Reports and The Heartland Institute

April 29-May 3, 2021


Question 1.  Where do you primarily read or watch news and opinion content? Cable television (such as CNN or Fox News), network television, online news or commentary websites, YouTube or other social media, talk radio, streaming services, or a mix of services?

            30%     Cable television

            12%     Network television

            14%     Online news or commentary websites

            8%       YouTube or other social media

            4%       Talk radio

            3%       Streaming services

            28%     A mix of services

            2%       Aren’t sure, or use another source


Question 2.   Among cable news outlets, which one would you characterize as your favorite? CNN, MSNBC, Fox News or another?

            20%     CNN

            17%     MSNBC

            34%     Fox News

            19%     Another

            10%     You don’t watch cable news outlets


Question 3.  Among network news outlets, which one would you characterize as your favorite?  ABC, CBS, NBC, or another?

            18%     ABC

            16%     CBS

            21%     NBC

            30%     Another

            10%     Don’t watch network news outlets


I am now going to ask you a series of questions about topics related to recent news events.  Please answer to the best of your ability, even if you are not sure what the correct choice is. (CORRECT ANSWERS ARE BOLDED.)


Question 4. Is climate change caused primarily by human activity or by long-term planetary trends?

            55%     Human activity

            45%     Long-term planetary trends


Question 5.  How many degrees (measured in Fahrenheit) has global temperature increased since the late 1800s?  Less than 1 degree, 1 degree to 3 degrees, 3 degrees to 5 degrees, 5 degrees to 10 degrees, 10 degrees to 20 degrees, or more than 20 degrees Fahrenheit?

            14%     Less than 1 degree

            37%    1 degree to 3 degrees

            27%     3 degrees to 5 degrees

            14%     5 degrees to 10 degrees

            6%       10 degrees to 20 degrees

            2%       More than 20 degrees

CORRECT ANSWER: According to the U.S. NOAA, “Averaged across land and ocean, the 2020 surface temperature was … 2.14˚F (1.19˚C) warmer than the pre-industrial period (1880-1900).”


Question 6.  If global carbon-dioxide emissions continue to increase at a rate comparable to what occurred during the past decade, how many years do you think it will take for humans to become completely or nearly extinct due to climate change?  10 to 20 years, 20 to 50 years, 50 to 100 years, or more than 100 years?

            4%       10 to 20 years

            13%     20 to 50 years

            20%     50 to 100 years

            46%    More than 100 years

            16%    Don’t think humanity will become extinct due to climate change

CORRECT ANSWER: There is no evidence that the human race will be extinct or near extinction within the next century, regardless of whether CO2 emissions continue to increase, a fact supported by virtually everyone in the scientific community, including those greatly concerned about climate change.