Environment falls as priority for Americans – Pew

January 22, 2009

2009 may not be such a green year in America after all.

According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, environmental protection has fallen off sharply as a priority issue among Americans. You can see the whole survey here.

Of the 20 issues people were asked to rate in both January 2008 and January 2009, five have slipped significantly in importance as attention to the economy has surged. Protecting the environment fell the most precipitously – just 41 percent rate this as a top priority today, down from 56 percent a year ago,” Pew said.

It said green concerns and others such as illegal immigration had been overtaken by growing anxiety over the souring economy.

The share of Americans saying that strengthening the nation’s economy should be a top priority has risen from 68 percent two years ago to 75 percent last January to 85 percent today,” it said.

The poll comes in the first week of the presidency of Barack Obama who has clearly signaled that the economy is his top priority. But Obama has also promised to reverse much of the environmental legacy of former president George W. Bush on issues such as climate change and the creation of so-called “green jobs” is high on his agenda.

Conservation groups have already said they are feeling the pinch. The Bronx Zoo based Wildlife Conservation Society said last week that it was facing a “dire financial situation.” Conservation is clearly losing ground to the economy as an issue that people can devote attention or resources toward.

What do you think? Do you think the conservation movement is in for a rough spell? Or will it just be a temporary setback and environmental issues will grab the public’s attention again in the near future? 

The nationwide poll of 1,503 adults was taken from Jan. 7-11 and has a margin of error of three percentage points.

(Photo Credit: REUTERS/Fred Prouser, Dec 26, 2008, USA)

3 comments

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I don’t think that people can not consider the many facets of environmental problems with the ecomony. Environmental degradation will continue to have an increasing impact upon the economy in the future. To not acknowledge this fact, is ludicrous.
Consumption, on the magnitude of the last twenty years isn’t sustainable, from a practical and ecological standpoint. People need to get real about the serious problems that they have helped to foster over the past fifty years.
Sadly, there are few paradigms offered which take into account long term environmental concerms with economics and the burgoning population and the demands that has upon the whole system. Hopefully, those analyses will be forth coming.

Posted by Doug Gledhill | Report as abusive

The enviroment will continue to get worse as we do not look at the problems of overpopulation or population control.

Posted by Barney | Report as abusive

The New York Times reported yesterday that a battle is heating up (pun intended) over the Obama administration’s global climate change policy. On the one side are the East Coast states and California, which have been leading the country in environmental regulation, and on the other are the Midwest and Plains States, which are dependent upon coal and manufacturing – leading contributors of the CO2 emissions that lead to climate change. Full story.

President Obama’s insistence on addressing global climate change, as promised during his campaign, is a refreshing change and an encouraging step forward. While recent polls indicate that environmental issues register fairly low on the national priority list of most Americans, these are nevertheless issues that we must continue to tackle whether the global economy is hearty or at a standstill.

Given the contentiousness of focusing upon manufacturing and coal emissions, perhaps the Obama administration would be better off turning its attention to an area that is responsible for 20% of all carbon emissions worldwide — the destruction of the world’s forests. One important manner in which the United States could have an impact in this area would be in promoting tropical hardwood certification. By certifying that tropical hardwoods have been harvested in an environmentally-friendly and sustainable manner, we could provide American consumers with information that would allow them to make purchasing decisions based upon their effects upon the environment. Rather than contribute further to the conditions that lead to global climate change, consumers may be made aware of the effect of their consumption decisions.

Certification is just one way of raising consumer consciousness. If we are to truly begin to address carbon issues, we must all become more aware of our personal impact upon the globe. The next time you are shopping for food or household goods, take a moment to consider where those goods are coming from and how they have arrived in your local store. Often the price on the tag does not reflect the true cost of the product.