February 7, 2019

More Republicans say stricter environmental regulations are ‘worth the cost’

Majority of Americans say stricter environmental laws are 'worth the cost'The share of Americans who say stricter environmental laws and regulations are “worth the cost” has ticked up in recent years, with a significant shift coming among Republicans.

Today, 63% of U.S. adults say stricter environmental regulations are “worth the cost,” while 30% say such regulations “cost too many jobs and hurt the economy,” according to a new survey by Pew Research Center. Two years ago, the balance of opinion was narrower, as 59% said stricter environmental regulations were worth the cost, while 37% said they cost too many jobs.

Partisanship continues to be a major factor in opinions about tougher environmental laws, with Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents far more likely than Republicans and GOP leaners to view stricter laws and regulations as worth the cost.

But since 2017, the share of Republicans who take a positive view of stricter environmental laws has increased, from 36% then to 45% today. There has been little change in Democrats’ views in this period (77% then, 81% now).

Still, Republicans remain less supportive of stricter environmental laws and regulations than they were during the 1990s and much of the 2000s. In 2007, for example, 58% of Republicans said they were worth the cost.

GOP split along ideological lines in views of stricter environmental lawsRepublicans are divided ideologically over stricter environmental regulations. Among the roughly two-thirds of Republicans and Republican leaners who describe their political views as conservative, 60% say stricter laws cost too many jobs and hurt the economy. Among the party’s moderates and liberals (who make up about a third of all Republicans and GOP leaners), 60% say stricter environmental laws are worth the cost.

Among Democrats and Democratic leaners, a larger majority of liberals (88%) than conservatives and moderates (74%) say stricter environmental laws are worth the cost.

There also are gender, age and educational differences in these attitudes. Women (69%) are more likely than men (58%) to say stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost. And while majorities in every age group say stricter environmental laws are worth it, a larger share of those ages 18 to 29 (72%) say this compared with those who are older than 50 (60%).

Positive views of environmental laws and regulations are also more common among adults with more education. Roughly three-quarters of those with a college degree or more (74%) say stricter environmental laws are worth the cost, compared with 59% of those without a college degree.

Note: See full topline results and methodology here

Topics: Energy and Environment, U.S. Political Parties, Political Attitudes and Values

  1. is an intern at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Baxter Oliphant

    is a research associate focusing on U.S. politics and policy at Pew Research Center.