A "striking majority" of the 12,000 adults polled in 12 countries were not aware that vertebrate populations have decreased by about 60% since 1970 and were also shocked to learn that a quarter of the world's mammals could soon be extinct, according to the survey, which was conducted in collaboration with market research firm Ipsos.
While respondents were "highly aware" of the rapid pace of extinction, they did not know the extent of what could be lost, according to National Geographic.
In addition, people "dramatically overestimate" how much of nature is protected, stating that they believe 35% of the world's sea waters are preserved, when in reality that number lies closer to 7%. That overestimation could result in a perception that the necessity to protect the environment is less urgent, according to the study's authors.
However, regardless of political or cultural background, very few people think extinction is acceptable. An average of just 2% of those polled from each country said that extinction did not concern them.
"We now know that's not only what's scientifically justified, but it's what people across a broad range of countries want,” said National Geographic Society's chief scientist, Jonathan Baillie. "So what's stopping us from being more ambitious?"
An ambitious proposal to set aside half of the Earth for nature is necessary to prevent a mass extinction and protect biodiversity, Baillie and biologist E.O. Wilson have theorized.
A United Nations report released in May stated that human activity has pushed more than 1 million species to the brink of extinction and that around 75% of Earth's terrestrial environment has been "severely altered" by humans.
The U.N. report states many of those species are threatened "within decades."
Greenhouse gases have more than doubled since 1980, which has raised global temperatures by at least 0.7 degrees Celsius, according to the report, which argued that climate change may be the largest disrupter of nature in coming decades.
ABC News' Jon Schlosberg contributed to this report.
Disney is the parent company of ABC News and National Geographic.