Washington, DC, April 22, 2019 – Ipsos, in collaboration with NPR, interviewed teachers across the nation to understand how they view the issue of climate change and how the subject should be taught, if at all, in classrooms. These teachers, from kindergarten to 12th grade, firmly agree that the world’s climate is changing (82%) and that the phenomenon should be taught in schools (86%).
Though a vast majority of teachers believe that climate change should be taught in schools, it is not top of mind compared to other subjects they believe are needed in schools. Twenty-nine percent of all teachers think that S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is the worthiest of additional resources to expand the curriculum of their schools, followed by basic literacy (25%). Just five percent cite climate as their first choice and 7% cite climate change as their second choice for expanded funding.
Teachers are more likely than the general population to believe the world’s climate is changing. Eighty-two percent of teachers think that the world’s climate is changing, compared to 74% of all Americans. The majority of teachers (62%) think that weather-related incidents are becoming more severe, echoing the beliefs of Americans as a whole (61%). Teachers are also more likely to believe that climate change is caused either mostly or entirely by humans (39%) than caused by natural processes (18%).
Seventy-four percent of teachers believe that climate change, along with its impacts on our environment, economy, and society, should be taught in schools. An additional 12% of teachers think that climate change should be taught in schools, but not its potential impacts. Less than one in ten teachers (8%) think that schools should not teach anything about climate change. Among those teachers who believe climate change should be taught in schools, the vast majority of them (72%) do not think that parental permission should be required and a majority (53%) say the subject should be taught in kindergarten or elementary school.
Teachers are divided in how they see their own personal roles in teaching climate change. Fifty-five percent of teachers do not currently teach or talk to their students about climate change. The other 42% of teachers educate and discuss with their students about climate change. Among those who do not teach climate change, a strong majority of them (65%) do not do so because it is not related to the subjects that they teach.
Most teachers feel comfortable answering students’ questions about climate change, but this varies greatly based on teachers who actually talk about the subject versus those that don’t. Teachers who teach climate change (91%) are more like to feel comfortable answering students’ questions about the subject than those teachers who don’t (56%). Teachers who actually talk about climate change are also more like to say that there should be state laws in place that require teaching climate change (70% vs. 38% of teachers who don’t talk about climate change). Teachers who educate about climate change are also more likely to say they have the resources they need to answer students’ questions about climate change (77% vs. 32%), that their students have brought up climate change in the classroom this year (78% vs. 14%), and that their schools encourage them to discuss climate change (64% vs. 18%).
Teachers are pessimistic about society’s ability to stop or lessen the effects of climate change. Among teachers who believe in climate change, 37% think that climate change can be stopped, either in their lifetime (12%) or in the next generations’ lifetime (25%). Around half (54%) think that climate change can’t be stopped, but we can lessen the effects. The remaining 5% think that there is nothing we can do to stop or reverse climate change. Teachers also think that global warming or climate change pose a threat to the United States. Around eight in ten (81%) teachers think that climate change is at least a moderate threat to the country.
About the Study
These are findings from an Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of NPR between March 21-25, 2019. For the survey, a sample of 505 teachers 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii were interviewed online in English. The sample includes 207 teachers who teach climate change to their students and 281 teachers who do not teach climate change to their students.
The sample for this study was randomly drawn from Ipsos’ online panel (see link below for more info on “Access Panels and Recruitment”), partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling (see link below for more info on the Ipsos “Ampario Overview” sample method) and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing a sample. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.S. Population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2016 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Post-hoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, and education.
Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 5.0 percentage points for all respondents. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect of the following (n=505, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=+/-6.5 percentage points).
The poll also has a credibility interval plus or minus 7.8 percentage points for teachers who teach climate change to their students, and 6.7 percentage points for teachers who do not teach climate change to their students.
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