For Americans, extreme weather is heating up

The American West is grappling with extreme heat, drought and wildfires, a reality that many Westerners are attuned to.

The author(s)

  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
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August 10— The American West is grappling with extreme heat, drought and wildfires, a reality that many Westerners are attuned to. At the same time, Americans in a more tenuous financial situation express greater uncertainty about their ability to save and invest even as the pandemic enters into a new phase of intensity. Financial insecurity is particularly prevalent among renters, lower income and younger people.

Stories this week:

Extreme weather:

Renters:

Drafting women:

Mask mandates:

Self-care:

Americans feel both droughts and floods are now more frequent where they live

Almost half of Americans feel that droughts and floods are more frequent now than ten years ago.

In the latest poll, a little under half of Americans (45%) feel that droughts are more frequent where they live compared to a decade ago. In the spring, only one in three felt the same. Yet, the share of Americans who feel flooding is more frequent now than ten years ago is unchanged since the question was first asked in 2017. 

While experiencing more frequent droughts and floods may seem like an inconsistency, other data supports people’s experience. Many parts of the Northeast are experiencing near record-breaking wet summers, while much of the West is experiencing extreme droughts.

It’s important to note that people’s impressions of severe weather tend to privilege their recent experiences over long term patterns, with the recent heat wave, drought, and wildfires plaguing the West likely playing a role in the trend.

People out West feel that droughts and wildfires are more frequent now than at the start of the decade

Among people out West, two in three feel droughts are growing more frequent, while three in four believe wildfires are becoming more frequent than they were ten years ago.

Compared to earlier this spring, before the dry wildfire season got underway, there has been an uptick in the numbers. Back in April, 47% of Westerners felt that droughts were more frequent. Now, 65% of Americans out West feel the same. For wildfires, there’s been a nine-point increase over that same period.

When looking at these trends, it’s important to remember that people’s impressions of severe weather tend to privilege their recent experiences over long-term patterns, meaning the recent heatwave, drought, and wildfire are top of mind in people’s responses.

These findings come just as the UN Climate report outlined how the world may suffer from extreme weather in the decades to come, yet this polling demonstrates how some Americans are experiencing that acutely.

Renters tend to be more worried about their ability to save for the future

Throughout the pandemic, a clear divide emerged among homeowners and people who do not own their own home on how confident they feel about their ability to save and invest. There is currently a 9-point divide among these two groups, on average over the past month. This discrepancy will be something to watch as the new CDC moratorium on evictions is set to expire in October, and already faces challenges in some states.

A profile of renters and homeowners

That insecurity around saving underscores the sense of financial tenuousness that younger and lower income people tend to feel, as homeownership is still most prevalent among older – and wealthier – generations.

Lower income Americans under the age of 40 are still disproportionately likely to be renting. However, a majority of higher income people between the ages of 30-40 own a home, tracking with older millennials jumping into the housing market during the pandemic.

Over the past five years, support for drafting women fell among men and women

Support for drafting women, as well as men, should the military draft be reinstated fell over the past five years. Less than half of Americans are now in favor of drafting women, as well as men, if the military draft were reinstated, a dip of 18 points since 2016.

Particularly among men, a group five years ago that was overwhelmingly in favor of including women in the draft, support has dropped by nearly 20-points, falling from about three in four back in 2016 to 55% now.

Support has also leveled off among women. Five years ago, about one in two women were in favor of drafting women as well as men, if the military draft were reinstated. Today, only a minority of women (36%) would favor doing so. 

People who don’t wear masks don’t understand the new CDC mask guidelines

The CDC revised its guidelines on mask-wearing for the vaccinated, requiring that vaccinated people use a mask indoors if COVID transmission is high in their area due to the high transmissibility of the Delta variant. 

A recent analysis of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Tracker finds most vaccinated Americans understand the new guidance. While those who don’t wear a mask regularly and unvaccinated people are among the least likely to understand the CDC’s new guidelines. 

Other groups who felt the CDC guidelines were unclear include men, Republicans, Independents, people in the Midwest and Northeast, and white people.

Unvaccinated Americans are still at the highest risk of contracting COVID, particularly if they engage in risky out-of-home behavior without a mask.

Self-care looks different by gender and age

Americans reliably turn to a few activities when they want to unwind and relax – re-watching a beloved TV show or movie, reading, going for a walk, or exercising. But self-care looks different when viewed through the prism of age and gender.  

For men under the age of 40, playing video games is the top way to unwind, followed by re-watching a favorite TV show or movie. Men over 40 turn to re-watching their favorites, followed by going for a walk.

Among women over 40, the most popular forms of self-care are reading a book or going for a walk. For women under 40, re-watching a favorite TV show tops the list, while going for a walk and reading are statistically tied for second place.

Exercise is the one area self-care activity in which the same number across gender and age groups take part – at approximately two in five.

The wellness and beauty industries have also made their mark on Americans’ self-care routines, most notably among women under 40. In this group, two in five say they turn to a skin or hair care routine to relax.

The author(s)

  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs

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