Poll finds Americans are now less worried about a series of environmental problems than at any time over the past 20 years
Fresh on the heels of publishing a poll showing Americans' declining concern for global warming, Gallup, the 75-year-old public opinion research organization today published more findings that indicate Americans are growing less concerned about a range of environmental issues.
The survey found that Americans are less concerned today than they were a year ago about each of eight specific environmental problems ranging from water, soil, and air pollution, to loss of tropical rainforests, wildlife biodiversity and global warming.
On all of the issues except global warming and maintenance of the nation's fresh water supply, the concern was the lowest Gallup has measured in 20 years.
A combination of several factors likely explain the long and steady decline in concern for environmental issues over the last 20 years, one of the strongest of which is a general belief among Americans that environmental conditions in the United States are generally improving.
But public concern for the environment--or any other issue--does not exist in a vacuum. And a complex web of factors, most notably, growing concern for the tanking economy are likely responsible for the abrupt shift in public opinion. Just as a healthy economies have been to shown to correlate with concern for the environment, the opposite trend has also been shown to happen.
Along with economic factors, political factors likely contributed to the sudden downswing in public concern for the environment. Some of the decrease in worry, as Gallup notes, is likely attributable to greater action on environmental issues at the federal, state, and local levels.
I would also suggest that after the election of 2008, a host of Democrats swept in on the coattails of Barack Obama along with a public perception that their newly-elected officials 'had it under control' and would do more to protect the environment than their predecessors. Whether or not it has actually played out that way, however, is still a matter of some debate.
Results of the survey were based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,014 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March from 4-7, 2010. The margin of error is +/- 4 points.