Green Behaviors Common in U.S., but Not Increasing

Gallup logo In their own words, Gallup's most recent environmental poll reveals that, "While most Americans continue to voluntarily take steps to help the
environment, the likelihood that an individual will do so appears fairly
fixed and largely unaffected by outside influences or even one's own
demographics. Stated more simply, those who are willing to undertake
such measures are probably already doing so, while others may never be
willing to do so."

Posted Apr. 9, 2010
By Lymari Morales, Gallup

Americans are today no more environmentally friendly in their actions
than they were at the turn of the century. While more than three in four
recycle, have reduced household energy use, and buy environmentally
friendly products, these numbers have barely budged since 2000.
Gallup1

Americans in 2010 remain more likely to recycle newspapers, glass,
aluminum, motor oil, or other items than to undertake any of the other
environmentally friendly actions Gallup tests — with 9 in 10 saying
they do so. Gallup asked about replacing standard light bulbs with
compact fluorescent light bulbs and using reusable shopping bags for the
first time this year, and it found Americans about as likely to take
these actions as they are to take other steps, such as reducing
household energy consumption and buying more environmentally friendly
products.

The stability of these findings stands in juxtaposition to the
political and media attention paid to global warming and climate change
over the past decade, particularly since Al Gore's 2006 documentary "An
Inconvenient Truth." Gallup also finds Americans
no more worried about the threat posed by global warming
than they
were at the start of the decade and that very few Americans name the
environment as the
most important problem
facing the country. In fact, Gallup recently
found Americans' level of concern
about many environmental problems
at a 20-year low, and environmental
quality ratings
rebounding to where they were at the start of the
decade.

Those who perceive a serious threat from global warming in their
lifetimes are often not any more likely to take environmentally friendly
steps than are those not perceiving a global warming threat. Only in
the case of buying more environmentally friendly products or using
reusable shopping bags is there a meaningful difference. There are also
few noteworthy differences by age, income, or party identification.

Environmental Activism Also Steady

Americans are also no more likely now than in the past to engage in
activist behavior to promote environmentally friendly actions by
organizations, politicians, or companies. Far less than half report
engaging in any such actions, and again, those numbers have hardly
changed over the past decade.

Gallup2 Given that Americans name the environment as the least important of seven
major issues to their vote for Congress
, it is improbable that
environmental activism will increase by any significant degree this
election year. Such behavior is, however, more likely among those who
view global warming as a serious threat in their lifetimes.

Implications

While most Americans continue to voluntarily take steps to help the
environment, the likelihood that an individual will do so appears fairly
fixed and largely unaffected by outside influences or even one's own
demographics. Stated more simply, those who are willing to undertake
such measures are probably already doing so, while others may never be
willing to do so.

The entrenched nature of these findings suggests that those who seek
to encourage even more environmentally friendly behaviors from the
overall population have their work cut out for them, especially if the
actions remain voluntary. It is possible that in these matters, only
tangible incentives will inspire further action, such as the 5-cent bag
tax recently levied in Washington, D.C., which cut plastic bag usage
from 22.5 million to 3 million in its first month in effect. Still,
policymakers should be mindful that with many Americans already
voluntarily taking steps to help the environment and with the issue
ranking very low on Americans' overall policy priority list, such
initiatives could be a tough sell.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of
1,014 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 4-7, 2010. For
results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with
95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4
percentage points. For results based on the half sample of 519 national
adults in Form A and 495 national adults in Form B, the maximum margins
of sampling error are ±5 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for
respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for
respondents who are cell phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical
difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the
findings of public opinion polls.

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