WASHINGTON - More Americans than at any time in the past decade believe that the seriousness of global warming is being exaggerated, a Gallup poll showed Thursday.
Forty-one percent of Americans told Gallup pollsters that they are doubtful that global warming is as serious as the mainstream media are reporting, putting public skepticism about the hot-button issue at the highest level recorded by Gallup in more than a decade.
The previous high came in 2004, when 38 percent of Americans said news reports exaggerated the seriousness of global warming.
Gallup's 2009 environment poll, which surveyed 1,012 adults by land- and mobile phone line between March 5 and 8, also showed that Americans ranked global warming last out of eight environmental issues that respondents were asked to give a score to based on their level of concern about the topic.
The pollution of drinking water was deemed the greatest source of concern, with 84 percent of respondents saying it worried them.
Other issues that were ranked -- and beat global warming by at least five percentage points -- were water pollution in general, toxic contamination of soil and water, fresh water supply, air pollution, loss of rain forests, and the extinction of plants and animals.
The number of Americans who thought global warming is already affecting the planet has also fallen, from 61 percent in March last year to 53 percent this year.
And a record high 16 percent of Americans told Gallup pollsters that they believe the effects of global warming "will never occur."
The poll results suggest "that the global warming message may have lost some footing with Americans," Gallup analyst Lydia Saad said.
"Americans generally believe global warming is real ... (but) most Americans do not view the issue in the same dire terms as the many prominent leaders advancing global warming as an issue," she said.