February 24, 2009

An Inconvenient Truth

15 points

The percentage of Americans calling environmental protection a top priority this year declined by 15 percentage points from last January.

Today’s celebration of Earth Day might not be a joyous as last year’s considering a January Pew Research survey found only 41% of Americans say protecting the environment should be a top priority, a 15-point decline from the previous January when 56% called it a top priority. Of the 20 issues people were asked to rate, five significantly slipped in importance as attention to the economy surged, but environmental protection fell the most precipitously. A similar fall with regard to the environment was also seen in January 2002 following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. While the slip in priority crosses partisan and demographic lines, however, a large partisan gap persists between Democrats and Republicans in rating the environment a top priority (34 points). In fact, the only policy ranking lower than protecting the environment among Republicans is dealing with global warming (16%). Not all is bleak for the green minded, though. A separate Pew Research survey found a majority of the public (59%) favors setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions and making companies pay for their emission, even if that may mean higher energy prices. Only a third opposed capping emissions. Read More