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Forty-seven percent prioritize energy production; 44%, environmental protection
by Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup, Americans Split on Energy vs. Environment Trade-Off, March 23, 2012, Retrieved: March 23, 2012

PRINCETON, NJ — Americans are about as likely to say production of energy supplies (47%) should be prioritized as to say environmental protection (44%) should be, a closer division than last year, when energy led by 50% to 41%. These views mark a shift compared with the early 2000s, when Americans consistently assigned a higher priority to environmental protection.

The greater preference for energy production over environmental protection in recent years likely results from the economic downturn, given that Americans have made economic matters their highest priority. There was a brief exception in the spring of 2010, however, after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill brought environmental issues back to the forefront.

Although Americans still view the economy as their No. 1 concern, they perceive the economy to be improving. In this context, the public is now about evenly divided on whether energy development or the environment should be given priority.

These results are based on Gallup’s annual Environment poll, conducted March 8-11. Rising gas prices, debate over government approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, and President Obama’s current energy policy tour highlight the importance of the energy issue. The Keystone issue in particular has reminded Americans about the trade-offs between increased energy production and risks to the environment.

Democrats and Republicans take opposing sides on the issue, with Republicans favoring energy development by 68% to 24% and Democrats preferring environmental protection by 56% to 34%. Independents’ views are closer to those of Democrats, with 49% prioritizing the environment and 41% energy production.

Compared with 10 years ago, when Americans overall favored environmental protection by 12 percentage points (52% to 40%), all groups have moved in the direction of energy prioritization, though Republicans have shifted much more so than either independents or Democrats.

Public Assigns Higher Priority to Alternative Energy, Conservation Than Production
Americans favor more environmentally friendly energy solutions when they are presented with various choices for addressing the nation’s energy problems.

First, Americans are nearly twice as likely to say the United States should put greater emphasis on the development of alternative energy supplies such as wind and solar power (59%) as to say the U.S. should emphasize production of more oil, gas, and coal supplies (34%). This is the case even though Republicans are more likely to favor production of traditional energy sources over alternative energy.

Gallup found a 66% to 26% margin in favor of alternative energy among all Americans last year, the first time the question was asked.

Also, Americans continue to say the U.S. should emphasize energy conservation by consumers over increased production of oil, gas, and coal to address the nation’s energy problems. However, the 11-point gap in favor of conservation this year (51% to 40%) is much smaller than it was from 2001-2008, when it averaged just under 30 points.

The reduced gap in favor of conservation is due mostly to Republicans’ changing preferences. Republicans currently prefer energy production by 63% to 29%. In 2002, Republicans said conservation should be emphasized over production, by 53% to 35%.

Independents have shifted slightly away from conservation, while Democrats’ preferences are essentially the same as they were 10 years ago.

Implications
Americans now split about evenly when asked to choose between an emphasis on increased energy production and environmental protection. These preferences have varied in the past 11 years in response to changes in the health of the economy and to dramatic events such as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Politics have also played a part in Americans’ shifting preferences over the past decade, with Republicans increasingly coming down on the side of increased production of oil, gas, and coal. This likely reflects party leaders’ preference for increased oil exploration in U.S. coastal areas and on U.S. land, which was a key focus at the 2008 Republican National Convention and more recently in calls by Republican presidential candidates and congressional leaders for the government to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

But Americans as a whole show a proclivity for more environmentally friendly approaches to dealing with the energy situation, including a greater focus on energy conservation or developing alternative energy supplies, even though Republicans take the opposing view.

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March 29, 2012
But eight-percentage-point gap in favor of economic growth is smaller than last year’s gap
by Dennis Jacobe, Chief Economist

For most of the last three decades, Americans have prioritized “the environment, even at the risk of curbing economic growth” over “economic growth … even if the environment suffers to some extent.” Prior to 2001, about two-thirds of Americans routinely favored protecting the environment. Even as the recession and financial crisis were getting underway in early 2008, more Americans favored the environment than economic growth, by a seven-point margin.
This trend changed as the recession deepened in 2009, with economic growth taking priority over the environment and continuing to do so through this year. Gallup found half of Americans choosing the environment after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in May 2010, but the data suggest that this major environmental event had only a temporary effect on the trend.
The modest improvement in the U.S. economy in early 2012 may have led some Americans to be somewhat less concerned about unemployment and economic growth, perhaps explaining this year’s slight shift in favor of the environment.
Gallup finds a similar trend this year in Americans’ preferences for the trade-off between environmental protection and energy production.
Young People, Democrats, and Liberals Prioritize Environment
Most subgroups of Americans favor economic growth over the environment. In fact, at least half of Americans 30 or older, conservatives, and Republicans prioritize economic growth. However, half or more of younger people aged 18 to 29, Democrats, and liberals instead prioritize the environment, as they have in past years.
It is not surprising that Republicans and Democrats have different priorities. But the fact that independents are evenly split on this issue is a change from a year ago, when half favored economic growth.

Americans’ Priorities Have Shifted Dramatically Since 2007
Prior to the recession and financial crisis, in 2007, most Americans across subgroups prioritized the environment (55%) over economic growth (37%). Today’s eight-point margin in favor of economic growth reflects a 26-point shift toward growth compared with 2007.
Similar shifts have taken place across political parties. Republicans’ views have shifted 32 points and Democrats’ views have shifted 30 points toward prioritizing economic growth since 2007, while independents’ views have shifted 25 points.

Implications
In an economic context, the environment is a public good that to a certain extent is paid for by limits placed on businesses and, therefore, economic growth, by way of government regulations. During good economic times, when the economy is growing at a good pace and unemployment is close to its historical norms, Gallup’s annual environmental survey data have found Americans tending to favor the environment over economic growth. Like many a public good, the cost seems more affordable when the overall economy is doing well.
However, the U.S. has not experienced good economic times since 2007, prior to the recession and financial crisis. Not surprisingly, Gallup data also suggest that Americans’ views of the trade-off between the environment and economic growth have changed over the past several years. This has been the case across political parties and demographic subgroups. The relative cost of the public good of the environment has increased in the minds of many Americans and, thus, their support for it at the expense of the economy has diminished.
Slow economic growth, surging gas prices, and political battles over energy and environmental policy could become a big part of this year’s presidential election campaign. The long-term trend in Americans’ views of the trade-offs between the environment and economic growth suggest that this is more likely to become a major issue in the presidential race if the U.S. economy continues to struggle than if the economy picks up significant positive momentum

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The global warming icon for the ubx.

The global warming icon for the ubx. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But remains much lower than the previous high of 72% in 2000

by Frank Newport, March 30, 2012

PRINCETON, NJ — Fifty-five percent of Americans worry a great deal or a fair amount about global warming, up from 51% in 2011, but still significantly lower than the previous high of 72% in 2000.

Trend: How much do you personally worry about global warming?

Gallup first asked Americans to rate their concern about “the ‘greenhouse effect‘ or global warming” in 1989, and has measured it as part of the annual Gallup Environment survey every March since 2001. An average of 60% of Americans since 1989 have worried a great deal or a fair amount about global warming, but concern has fluctuated significantly over this time period. After increasing in the late 1990s and rising to a high of 72% in 2000, worry declined to a low of 51% in 2004. It picked up again in 2005, reaching 66% in 2008, before falling again in recent years — including another 51% reading in 2011.

It is possible that this year’s uptick signals the start of a new period of increased worry, but the high level of variability in this trend makes such predictions difficult.

Personal worry about global warming is significantly related to politics and ideology. Democrats and liberals are most likely to say they are worried, while Republicans and conservatives are least likely.

I'm going to read you a list of environmental problems. As I read each one, please tell me if you personally worry about this problem a great deal, a fair amount, only a little, or not at all. First, how much do you personally worry about global warming? March 2012 results by demographics, ideology, party ID

Americans under 50 are slightly more worried about global warming than those who are older. Worry is also slightly higher among Americans with high school educations or less than it is among those with more education.

Most Do Not Expect Global Warming to Threaten Their Way of Life

A different question included in Gallup’s March 8-11 Environment survey asked Americans if they thought global warming would pose a “serious threat” to them and their way of life in their lifetime. The 38% who said “yes” is up from last year’s 32%, and is about the same as the percentages measured in 2009 and 2010. Worry about the threat of global warming was slightly lower in 1997 and the early 2000s.

Trend: Do you think that global warming will pose a serious threat to you or your way of life in your lifetime?

There is a definite relationship between responses to this “lifetime threat” question and age — perhaps not surprisingly. An average of 46% of those under 50 say global warming will pose a threat in their lifetime; this drops to 33% among those 50 to 64 and 19% among those 65 and older. Those in the oldest age group, of course, on average have fewer years left in their lifetimes in which global warming could potentially be a threat.

Do you think that global warming will pose a serious threat to you or your way of life in your lifetime? March 2012 results, by demographics, ideology, and party ID

Predictably, these views reflect politics and ideology, with Democrats and liberals most likely to say global warming will be a threat in their lifetime, and Republicans and conservatives least likely. There is little difference in these views by education.

Implications

Americans’ worry about global warming inched up this year after declining in the recent past. Both worry and views of global warming as an impending threat have gone up this year. The percentage who worry about global warming is still, however, well below the levels reached in a number of other years, although views of global warming as a threat are now roughly as high as they have been.

The history of Americans’ views on global warming is one of significant ups and downs, making it difficult to predict whether this year’s uptick in Americans’ concerns about global warming will continue in the years to come. It will take much more significant change for Americans’ attitudes to reach the levels of just a few years ago, or back in 2000.

Previous Gallup research has documented the strong impact of partisan politics on Americans’ views of global warming. Indeed, Republicans and conservatives remain the least likely to say they worry about global warming. This at least partly reflects the global warming skepticism expressed by conservative media news outlets and among conservative commentators. It is difficult to document whether this emphasis waned this past year as the economy and election issues moved more to the forefront.

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In U.S., Global Warming Views Steady Despite Warm Winter – Repost from Gallup

Just over half say effects of global warming are now evident, similar to 49% last year

by Lydia Saad

PRINCETON, NJ — About half of Americans, 52%, say the effects of global warming have already begun to happen, consistent with views since 2009. However, this remains down from prior years, when as many as 61% believed global warming was already manifesting itself.

Trend: Opinion About When Effects of Global Warming Will Happen

Today’s level of belief that global warming is already apparent is similar to what Gallup found in 1997 and from 2001 through 2005. During those periods, however, somewhat fewer than today’s 15% said its effects would never happen.

The view that global warming is already causing a rise in sea levels and affecting weather and rainfall around the world is central to climate-change researchers’ and others’ concerns about the issue.

While barely half of Americans agree that the effects of global warming are already manifest, an additional 29% say the effects will start to happen within a few years (4%), sometime in their lifetime (10%), or sometime further into the future (15%). Fifteen percent of Americans say the effects will never happen.

These findings are from Gallup’s annual Environment poll, conducted each March since 2001. This year’s update was conducted March 8-11.

Skepticism of Media Coverage Remains Heightened

The same poll finds the slight majority of Americans saying the news about global warming is either correct (24%) or underestimates its seriousness (31%). Still, at 42%, the percentage saying the media exaggerate the seriousness remains higher than it was for much of the past decade, although down from the 2010 high point, when it reached 48%.

Trend: Opinion of News Reports About Global Warming

Americans’ belief that the media exaggerate the seriousness of global warming rose sharply between 2006 and 2010, mainly because of a shift in Republicans‘ and independents’ views. Democrats also grew a bit more skeptical during this period, but never more than 25% held this view.

Since 2009, two-thirds of Republicans have continued to say global warming news is exaggerated, while independents’ skepticism has eased slightly, as has Democrats’.

Trend: Percentage Saying News of Global Warming Is "Exaggerated" -- by Party ID

More Blame Human Activity Than Natural Environmental Changes

Much of the controversy over global warming concerns its cause, not whether a measurable increase in the earth’s average temperature has, in fact, occurred. A slight majority of Americans, 53%, say global warming is caused by pollution resulting from human activities. Forty-one percent believe it stems from natural changes in the environment.

This 12-percentage-point spread in views is slightly wider than what Gallup found in 2010, when Americans were more evenly split on the question; however, the lead for the human activities position is still not as wide as was found from 2003 through 2008, when it stretched to as much as 28 points (61% vs. 33%).

Trend: Primary Cause of Global Warming

Majority Perceives a Scientific Consensus on Global Warming

One of the more contentious battles in the politics of global warming involves the perceived scientific consensus. Those promoting global warming as a serious problem have declared the issue settled, arguing there is no serious scientific claim against the evidence for man-made climate change. Global warming skeptics point to scientific dissenters and try to debunk predictions of catastrophic consequences of global warming made by some, while promoting the more benign effects described by others.

When asked to weigh in broadly on this debate, the majority of Americans say most scientists believe global warming is occurring. By contrast, 7% say most scientists reject the existence of climate change, while 32% say most scientists are unsure. At the same time, fewer Americans today believe there is a scientific consensus than did so during the 2000s, when at least 6 in 10 held this view.

Trend: Opinion About Scientific Consensus on Global Warming

Independents and Democrats Tilt Toward Acceptance

Across all four Gallup measures of views on global warming, the majority of Americans lean toward believing in it. Independents’ views are similar to the national averages, while much larger percentages of Democrats are supportive. Republicans, on the other hand, are largely skeptical.

The highest support for global warming claims among Republicans is seen on the scientific consensus question, with 43% saying most scientists believe global warming is happening. Republicans’ agreement is much lower on the question of news reports about global warming, with 31% saying those reports are accurate or underestimate the problem.

Summary of Global Warming Views, by Party ID, March 2012

Bottom Line

The slight majority of Americans support global warming as valid on a number of measures. And after peaking in 2010, public skepticism about global warming softened slightly in 2011, and remains at the lower level this year. Nevertheless, Americans remain less certain about the accuracy of global warming news coverage, about humankind’s role in causing global warming, and about the scientific consensus on the issue than they were last decade.

Some shift in Americans’ global warming views might have been expected this year, given the near-record warm temperatures experienced this winter across much of the country — Gallup finds 79% of Americans reporting that the weather in their area was warmer than usual, though less than half of these attributed this to global warming.

However, the fact that belief in global warming did not increase markedly suggests Americans are basing their perceptions more on the debates over scientific evidence than on the weather outside their front door.

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