Ending the Environment Vs. Economy Match-Up


A new Gallup poll [http://www.gallup.com/poll/146681/Americans-Increasingly-Prioritize-Econ... finds that Americans prioritize the economy over the environment by a wider margin than in almost 30 years, reflecting large attitude shifts among conservatives and widening political divides.

Results from Gallup’s annual environmental poll show that 54% of Americans prioritize the economy over the environment, compared to 36% who view environmental issues as more pressing. (It is assumed that 10% of those surveyed were “Undecided,” but Gallup does not account for the missing 10%.)

These results contrast drastically from those released in 2000, when Americans prioritized the environment over the economy by a greater than 2-to-1 margin (67% to 28%).

Gallup notes that the widest swing in views came from right-wingers. Republicans actually picked the environment over the economy by a 26 percentage-point gap in 2000. In the latest poll, however, their views seesawed a dramatic 81 points to favor economic prioritization by 55 points. Among conservatives (which Gallup defines as a separate group from “Republicans”), there was a significant 71-point swing.

Views from Democrats and liberals (defined as two separate groups, in this study) did not change as dramatically, with 38% and 32% shifts, respectively, toward economic prioritization.

The results of the poll clearly reflect a drastically different economic climate in 2011 vs. 2000, as well as political views influenced by a current agenda propagated by the likes of the Tea Party and Fox News.

But as disconcerting as the lack of concern for the environment is, the mere existence of this Gallup poll, which has been conducted annually since 1984, could be even more troubling. Indeed, the question should not be Environment vs. Economy. The political discourse of late, however, has increasingly encouraged a divide between issues that do not inherently contract each other.

Environmental preservation is not a hindrance to nor an opponent of economic development, but rather a catalyst to its growth. The clean-energy sector, for instance, represents a giant opportunity for economic proliferation. It is through this symbiotic relationship, and bipartisan cooperation, that the U.S. economy — as well as our planet — will have the opportunity to truly flourish.

(Survey methodology: Results are based on telephone interviews conducted March 3-6, 2011 with a random sample of –1,021—adults, aged 18+, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit dial sampling. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of error is ±4 percentage points. For results based on the sample of –494—national adults in Form A and –527—national adults in Form B, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±5 percentage points.)

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