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Environmental concerns are flat since 2010, but down over past decade
March 28, 2011, Gallup, Retrieved: 31 Jan 2012
by Lydia Saad

PRINCETON, NJ–At least three in four Americans surveyed in Gallup’s 2011 Environment poll say they worry a great deal or a fair amount about contamination of soil and water by toxic waste, pollution of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, pollution of drinking water, and the maintenance of the nation’s supply of fresh water for household needs.

Air pollution is nearly as high a concern for Americans, with 72% worried a great deal or a fair amount about it.

A little more than 6 in 10 worry about the related problems of extinction of plant and animal species and the loss of tropical rain forests. Slightly fewer worry about urban sprawl and loss of open spaces, while barely half, 51%, worry about global warming.

The poll was conducted March 3-6, prior to the emergence of an earthquake- and tsunami-generated nuclear crisis in Japan that has raised Americans’ own concerns about nuclear power.

The current levels of public concern about various environmental problems are essentially unchanged from 2010. However, Americans are less worried today than they were 10 years ago about all eight issues Gallup measured in 2001. The decline over the past decade spans a period when the public often expressed surging concern about terrorism, the Iraq war, gas prices, and the economy.

Bottom Line
Although the United States has experienced nothing like the mass drinking-water scare that is gripping Japan during its current nuclear crisis, Americans largely recognize the importance of clean water to their lives. All four environmental issues referring to “water” in this year’s Gallup Environment poll rank in the upper tier of environmental concerns, with air pollution a close fifth. Perhaps not surprisingly, there is a slightly steeper drop-off in concern about several issues that aren’t directly related to daily survival, such as the loss of tropical rain forests and urban sprawl. What may surprise some, given the broad exposure the issue has received in recent years, is that global warming ranks lowest — consistent with other Gallup polling — with barely half of Americans concerned and 48% only a little or not at all concerned.

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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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