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- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said last week that some young people are concerned about having children given the threat climate change could pose to future generations.
- The comments drew intense media attention – one conservative pundit called it “fascistic.”
- But a new INSIDER poll found that nearly a third of Americans – and about 38% of those between 18 and 29 years old – believe a couple should consider the negative effects of climate change when deciding whether or not to have children.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made headlines last week when she suggested that some young Americans are concerned about having children because of the threat that climate change could pose to future generations.
“Our planet is going to hit disaster if we don’t turn this ship around … there’s scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Instagram Live. “And even if you don’t have kids, there are still children here in the world, and we have a moral obligation to leave a better world for them.”
The 29-year-old New York progressive went on to say young people are grappling with the question: “Is it OK to still have children?”
An INSIDER poll conducted on SurveyMonkey Audience found that nearly 30% of Americans either strongly agree, agree, or somewhat agree that a couple should consider the negative and potentially life-threatening effects of climate change when deciding whether or not to have children. Just more than 8% of Americans strongly agreed that climate change should be a consideration.
Just more than 40% of Americans said they either somewhat disagree, disagree, or strongly disagree that climate change should play a role in the decision to have children. About 18% of Americans strongly disagreed that the future impacts of climate change should be considered by would-be parents.
Twenty-two percent of respondents said they neither agreed nor disagreed, and 7% said they did not know.
Young people are more likely to consider climate change
Notably, younger people are much more likely to consider the threats of a planet more prone to extreme weather, droughts, floods, and wildfires when deciding whether to have kids.
Nearly 38% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 agreed that climate change should be a factor in a couple’s decision about whether to have children. And 34% of Americans between the ages of 30 and 44 agreed.
Agreement was also linked to the belief that climate change is man-made: 38% of respondents who said “the earth is getting warmer mostly because of human activity such as burning fossil fuels” said couples should factor in the effect of that warming on their children before having them. Meanwhile, 33% disagreed, and another third were neutral or didn’t know.
Older Americans were less likely to agree.
About 25% of respondents between the ages of 45 and 60 said climate change should be a consideration, while about 20% of those older than 60 years old said the same. About 47% of respondents older than 60 years old said climate change shouldn’t be a factor in the decision to have kids.
This appears to be related to how each group views the threat of climate change and, based on other answers, probably isn’t just pre-children jitters. In a separate question, 89% of respondents agreed that couples “should factor in their ability to support a child and guarantee a happy life” into their decision about having children.
Whether or not climate change will remove that guarantee of a happy life appears to be the sticking point and the crux of the disagreement.
A 2018 New York Times survey found that 11% of respondents “didn’t want children or weren’t sure” because they were “worried about climate change,” and 33% were having fewer children than they ideally wanted because of climate-change worries.
The birthrate in the US reached a record low for a second straight year in 2017.
The Times survey, administered by Morning Consult, was based on responses from 1,858 men and women ages 20 to 45.
SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. Total 1,102 respondents collected March 1 to 2, 2019, a margin of error plus or minus 3.1 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.