People were five times more likely to point to the economy over the environment as an issue and when asked about climate change, people said they saw the issue more as a national problem than a personal concern, the study found.
The results are from coordinated surveys conducted by the International Social Survey Program in 33 countries from 1993 through 2010.
They were "the first and only surveys that put long-term attitudes toward environmental issues in general and global climate change in particular in an international perspective," said Tom W. Smith of the NORC, formerly the National Opinion Researcher Center, at the University of Chicago, author of a paper that summarizes the surveys.
Survey participants were asked the relative importance of eight issues: healthcare, education, crime, the environment, immigration, the economy, terrorism and poverty.
The economy scored highest in concern in 15 countries, followed by healthcare in eight, education in six, poverty in two, and terrorism and crime in one country each.
The environment did not make the top of the list in any country in the 17-year period, and in the U.S. concern for the environment ranked sixth, the study researches said.