Friday, March 27, 2015

Gallup Poll Finds Americans’ Worries About Environmental Threats Easing

Trends in Americans' Worry about environmental problems (Credit: Gallup) Click to Enlarge.
Americans’ concern about several major environmental threats has eased after increasing last year, according to Gallup’s annual Environment survey, conducted March 5-8.  As in the past, Americans expressed the greatest worry about pollution of drinking water, and the least about global warming.  Gallup trends on many of these items stretch back more than two decades.  Last year’s increased worry proved temporary, with the current level of worry on each of the problems back to about where it was in 2013.

Despite ups and downs from year to year in the percentage worried about the various issues, the rank order of the environmental problems has remained fairly consistent over the decades. Americans express greater concern over more proximate threats—including pollution of drinking water, as well as pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs, and air pollution—than they do about longer-term threats such as global warming, the loss of rain forests, and plant and animal extinction.

The amount Americans worry about the various threats tends to rise and recede in unison, with concern higher in the late 1980s and early 1990s during the revival of environmentalism, and in the late 1990s and early 2000s amid the economic boom.  Since then, Americans’ worry has fallen, with concern dipping to record lows on most issues in 2010 or 2011.  The current level of worry on each issue remains at or near those record lows.

Global warming:  more specifically, Gallup also found that Americans are no more likely today (55%) than in the past two years to believe the effects of global warming are occurring.

The 2014-2015 winter season brought record warm temperatures to the Western US while it delivered record cold to much of the rest of the country and record snowfall in the East. However, this winter has neither created an uptick in new believers that the effects of global warming are manifest nor reduced the ranks of skeptics.  Most of those in the cold regions believe the extreme cold reflected normal variations in weather.  At the same time, just half of those in the warm spots attribute the unusual heat to global warming; the other half think it was normal variation.

A third of Americans believe the effects of global warming will either never happen (16%) or not happen in their lifetime (17%), about the same as in March 2014.

Read more at Gallup Poll Finds Americans’ Worries About Environmental Threats Easing

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