Pew: 71% of Americans say “This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment.”
In this Climate Progress post, Joe Romm points out an optimistic finding in one of Pew's latest polls (survey Feb. – April 2011): 71% of Americans believe “This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment.” Conversely, a Gallup poll (survey March 2011), included in ecoAmerica's Trends in America's Climate & Environmental Attitudes report, found only 36% of Americans agreed "protection of the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth." The stark difference in results for these similar polls could mean slight differences in a question's phrasing, such as Gallup directly pitting the environment against the economy, is influencing Americans' responses.
Posted 4.9.2011 on Climate Progress
by Joe Romm
Pew buried the lede. The most interesting finding to me is that 71% of Americans believe “This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment.” And 59% believe that “strongly.”
The Pew Research Center has just released a very interesting study, “Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology.” It segments the public into nine groups: eight politically active groups and one inactive group (bystanders) composed entirely of nonvoters. Of the eight active groups, two are described as “mostly Republican” (staunch conservatives and Main Street Republicans), three as “mostly Democratic” (new coalition Democrats, hard-pressed Democrats, and solid liberals), and three as “mostly independent” (libertarians, disaffecteds, and postmoderns). In reality, however, postmoderns lean strongly Democratic, while libertarians and disaffecteds lean strongly Republican. So there are really four active Democratic and four active Republican groups.
You can find details on each of these groups here.
In light of this diversity it is interesting to note a couple of areas where almost all of these groups agree. The first is on support for alternative energy. Overall, the public prioritizes developing alternative energy over expanding oil, coal, and natural gas by a 63-29 margin. And, as shown in the chart below, seven of Pew’s eight active typology groups support this position, including a whopping 40-point margin among the Main Street Republican group. Only the staunch conservatives (9 percent of the public) dissent from the rest.
Conservatives usually act like progressive ideas have no purchase in “their” part of the political spectrum. These data suggest otherwise.
General support for tougher environmental protection remains strong as evidenced by the polling numbers cited at the top. A related question found 53% of Americans believe “Stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost” compared to 39% says “Stricter environmental laws and regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy.” Reconciling that with the71% who say they believe “This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment,” would seem to imply that even some people who think environmental laws and regulations hurt the economy still want tougher environmental protection, which in turn would suggest that the overwhelming majority of Americans are not economists.
This poll has some interesting results on global warming, which I will deal with in a separate post.