Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day Review of American Environmental Attitudes

A review of polling results reveals the sad truth about US attitudes on climate change. Despite the plethora of science and media coverage American attitudes on climate change are the same today as they were in 1989. Americans claim they want greener products and services and they also claim that they want corporations to be greener, however this is not reflected in their actual buying behavior.

In an article titled "Earth Day and the polling of America 2015" Joel Makower comments on the theory that a strong economy lends itself to greater environmental concern. However, he observes the opposite appears to be true, as Americans feel more economically secure the level of environmental concern has decreased or remained static.

His review of public opinion polls over the last eight years leads him to conclude that the level of environmental concern has stalled in the US. Americans appear to be enamored with the fossil fuel boom in the US and less than preoccupied with the associated environmental impacts.

Although Americans are somewhat concerned about clean air and water, they are relatively unconcerned about climate change, declining biodiversity and even species extinction.

According to the most recent Gallup poll the number of Americans that believe global warming is happening already or will happen in their lifetime is 65 percent. That is exactly the same percentage as in 1989. The Gallup poll is corroborated by research from the Pew Research Center’s annual policy priorities survey in which the Environment ranked 13th and global warming ranked 22nd (next to last).

However other polls have produced different results. A 2014 poll by Tiller LLC, suggested that Americans have a "deep and growing concern for the environment.” This poll indicated that climate change ranked abouve terrorism and global epidemics as the greatest long term threat to their health and well being. The Tiller LLC survey found that women are more concerned about the shape of the environment than men.

According to a November 2014 University of Texas Energy Poll, young Americans are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to address climate change. A study conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of Avaaz reveals that almost all (94 percent) of high school students believe in the veracity of climate change and 80 percent attribute it to human activity.

A national survey conducted by KSV, revealed that Hispanics and African-Americans are almost twice as likely to be interested in energy efficiency as their white counterparts.

The Tiller survey said that more than three quarters of Americans (78 percent) believe it is important to “purchase products from a socially or environmentally responsible company.” And 43 percent said they have declined to buy a product over the past year out of concern for the effect the product or its packaging might have on the environment.

In the same survey Americans attributed the behavior or environmentally responsible corporations to regulatory or competitive reasons rather than altruistic motives. However, 72 percent of respondents indicated that they do not care why a company goes green as long as they do so.

Makeover commented on these results saying, "a number of environmental polls suggest that most Americans are ready and willing to make purchasing, investing and career choices based on their high levels of environmental concern, even if their actual choices don't reflect such high levels of commitment."

Related
President Obama's Earth Day Address: Action on Climate Change Cannot Wait (Video)
Responding to Grist's Anti-Earth Day Rants
The Importance of Science and Nature on Earth Day
Earth Day Activities and Actions in the US and Canada
Earth Day 2015: The Marriage of Economic Growth and Sustainability

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