December 13th, 2012
02:55 PM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – More than a third of Americans see recent extreme weather as a sign that the world is in biblical “end times,” according to a survey released Thursday.
Thirty-six percent of Americans say that the severity of recent natural disasters indicate that we are at the precipice of Jesus’ second coming and the end of the world, according to the survey, released by Public Religion Research Institute. The survey found that 15% of Americans believe the world will end, as predicated in the book of Revelation, in their lifetime.
“Theology plays an important role in how we view the world,” said Daniel Cox, the survey firm’s research director. “We have had a number of really severe weather events in 2012, and we thought that might affect how people respond.”
In late 2012, Superstorm Sandy ravaged the east coast, killing 106 people in the United States and causing up to $50 billion in damage. The year also saw a major drought in the Midwest and southeastern United States, wildfires throughout Colorado that provoked tens of thousands to evacuate and June floods that washed out roads and bridges and inundated neighborhoods in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
A belief that the end of the world is near does not necessarily rule out acceptance of global warming, however. More than six-in-10 Americans said the severity of recent storms is caused by global climate change.
“To some, climate change is one way that we are experiencing end times,” Cox said.
Beliefs about climate change and the end times are largely split along religious lines. While most white mainline Protestants (65%) and Catholics (60%) say recent extreme weather is born of climate change, a large majority of white evangelical Protestants (65%) say the storms are proof of “end times.”
The book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament, paints itself as a prophetic look at the second coming of Jesus Christ. The apocalyptic book says that believers will be saved and that nonbelievers will perish in a struggle between good and evil.
Many Christians believe the end times will be marked by drought, famine, storms and floods, as well as economic failures.
Though they disagree on why it’s happening, most Americans agree that the weather is intensifying. According to the Public Religion Research Institute survey, 63% of Americans say the weather is getting “more extreme,” while only 6% said it was getting “less extreme.”
“While there is disagreement about the causes of, and to a lesser extent the existence of, global warming, there is nonetheless widespread agreement about the need for action,” Robert P. Jones, CEO of the polling firm, said.
The survey found that eight in 10 Democrats and more than 6 in 10 independents say the government needs to do more to combat global warming, though most Republicans disagree.
The telephone survey of 1,018 American adults was conducted from December 5 to December 9. The poll’s margin of error is 3.2 percent.
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