Overall, 65 percent of the 22,000 people polled in 21 countries said there was a need "to take major steps very soon" ranging from 91 percent in Spain to 37 percent in India.
In the United States, the world's biggest emitter of climate changing carbon gases, 59 percent called for urgent action and in China, which builds a coal-fired power station every five days to feed its booming economy, it was 70 percent.
The poll showed nine out of 10 people want some action on climate change, and 79 percent said human activity was contributing significantly to the problem that scientists say will cause major hardship worldwide.
The poll surveyed people in 14 of the 16 nations invited to a meeting of major world carbon emitters in Washington this week by George W. Bush, who has rejected calls for the United States to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol on cutting emissions.
Washington is still opposed to timetables or targets and argues technology holds the answers.
The poll showed 73 percent of people on average agreed developing states should limit their emissions in return for financial aid and technological transfer from developed nations.
Support for this ranged from 90 percent in China to 47 percent in India. It was 70 percent in the United States, 81 percent in Britain and 78 percent in France.
Knowledge of climate change varied widely across the world, with 62 percent in France but just 5 percent in Russia saying they had heard or read a great deal about it, while in Indonesia 47 percent said they knew little about it.
The poll was conducted for the BBC by PIPA, the Programme on International Policy Attitudes, at the University of Maryland, using a combination of face-to-face and telephone interviews.