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Polls on the Environment, Energy, Global Warming, and Nuclear Power, AEI Public Opinion Study, April 2011

Polls on the Environment, Energy, Global Warming, and Nuclear Power, AEI Public Opinion Study, April 2011

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In this updated and expanded study of public attitudes on environment issues, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) senior fellow and public opinion expert Karlyn Bowman, with researcher Andrew Rugg, explores trends from major pollsters on the environment, offshore drilling, gas prices, nuclear power, and global warming. Bowman notes that attitudes have shifted significantly in a number of areas since the 2010 study. Among the highlights:

President Obama

President Obama continues to receive solid marks on the environment. In a March 2011 AP-GfK/Roper poll, 63 percent approved his handling of the issue with 35 percent disapproving. A March-April 2011 Pew poll showed Obama's rating on the environment much lower, at 51 percent (35 percent disapproved).

His marks on handling energy policy are more negative. Roughly equal numbers approve (47 percent) and disapprove (46 percent) in a March 2011 CNN/ORC poll.

Energy Concerns

* Americans are deeply concerned about rising prices. April 2011 polling by AP-GfK/Roper shows that 77 percent say gas prices are extremely/very important to them, ranking fifth out of 14 other issues. Sixty-four percent told CNN/ORC pollsters in March that gas price increases had caused financial hardship for their household.
* After the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, 2010, attitudes towards offshore drilling soured. Late 2010 and early 2011 polling suggests attitudes have shifted again, this time in favor of offshore drilling. A plurality of 48 percent told AP-GfK pollsters in August 2010 that they favored "increasing drilling for oil and gas in coastal areas around the United States". Thirty-six percent were opposed. Sixty percent in a March 2011 Gallup poll favored increasing offshore drilling for oil and gas in coastal areas; 37 percent were opposed. In an April 2011 CNN/ORC poll, 45 percent strongly favored increased drilling for oil and natural gas offshore in U.S. waters, up from 26 percent who gave that response in 2010. Overall, 69 percent in the new CNN poll favored increased offshore drilling and 31 percent were opposed.

Nuclear Power

* Attitudes towards nuclear power have grown more negative in the wake of the problems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Japan. While March 2011 Gallup polling shows more in favor (56 percent) than opposed (38 percent) to the use of nuclear energy to generate electricity, polling from CBS and CNN/ORC shows more opposition that support to building more nuclear power plants. Americans appear to believe that U.S. nuclear power plants are safe.

The Environment

* For only the second time since the question was asked in 1984, more respondents told Gallup that they would prioritize economic growth over the environment "even if the environment suffers to some extent."
* In a March 2011 Gallup poll, 48 percent said the quality of the environment nationally is getting worse. In 2008, 68 percent gave that response.

Global Warming

* When the Pew Research Center updated its yearly poll on priorities for the president and Congress in January 2011, 26 percent said global warming should be a top priority. Only "dealing with obesity in this country" ranked lower out of the twenty-two issues Pew asked about.
* In a March 2011 Gallup poll, 43 percent said that what was said about global warming in the news was generally exaggerated. This is down slightly from 2010 (48 percent), but up considerably since the question was first asked in November 1997 (31 percent).

Read more AEI Studies on Public Opinions

In this updated and expanded study of public attitudes on environment issues, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) senior fellow and public opinion expert Karlyn Bowman, with researcher Andrew Rugg, explores trends from major pollsters on the environment, offshore drilling, gas prices, nuclear power, and global warming. Bowman notes that attitudes have shifted significantly in a number of areas since the 2010 study. Among the highlights:

President Obama

President Obama continues to receive solid marks on the environment. In a March 2011 AP-GfK/Roper poll, 63 percent approved his handling of the issue with 35 percent disapproving. A March-April 2011 Pew poll showed Obama's rating on the environment much lower, at 51 percent (35 percent disapproved).

His marks on handling energy policy are more negative. Roughly equal numbers approve (47 percent) and disapprove (46 percent) in a March 2011 CNN/ORC poll.

Energy Concerns

* Americans are deeply concerned about rising prices. April 2011 polling by AP-GfK/Roper shows that 77 percent say gas prices are extremely/very important to them, ranking fifth out of 14 other issues. Sixty-four percent told CNN/ORC pollsters in March that gas price increases had caused financial hardship for their household.
* After the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, 2010, attitudes towards offshore drilling soured. Late 2010 and early 2011 polling suggests attitudes have shifted again, this time in favor of offshore drilling. A plurality of 48 percent told AP-GfK pollsters in August 2010 that they favored "increasing drilling for oil and gas in coastal areas around the United States". Thirty-six percent were opposed. Sixty percent in a March 2011 Gallup poll favored increasing offshore drilling for oil and gas in coastal areas; 37 percent were opposed. In an April 2011 CNN/ORC poll, 45 percent strongly favored increased drilling for oil and natural gas offshore in U.S. waters, up from 26 percent who gave that response in 2010. Overall, 69 percent in the new CNN poll favored increased offshore drilling and 31 percent were opposed.

Nuclear Power

* Attitudes towards nuclear power have grown more negative in the wake of the problems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Japan. While March 2011 Gallup polling shows more in favor (56 percent) than opposed (38 percent) to the use of nuclear energy to generate electricity, polling from CBS and CNN/ORC shows more opposition that support to building more nuclear power plants. Americans appear to believe that U.S. nuclear power plants are safe.

The Environment

* For only the second time since the question was asked in 1984, more respondents told Gallup that they would prioritize economic growth over the environment "even if the environment suffers to some extent."
* In a March 2011 Gallup poll, 48 percent said the quality of the environment nationally is getting worse. In 2008, 68 percent gave that response.

Global Warming

* When the Pew Research Center updated its yearly poll on priorities for the president and Congress in January 2011, 26 percent said global warming should be a top priority. Only "dealing with obesity in this country" ranked lower out of the twenty-two issues Pew asked about.
* In a March 2011 Gallup poll, 43 percent said that what was said about global warming in the news was generally exaggerated. This is down slightly from 2010 (48 percent), but up considerably since the question was first asked in November 1997 (31 percent).

Read more AEI Studies on Public Opinions

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Published by: American Enterprise Institute on Apr 20, 2011
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POLLS ON THE ENVIRONMENT,ENERGY, GLOBAL WARMING, andNUCLEAR POWER
Compiled by Karlyn Bowman, Resident Fellow, AEI and Andrew Rugg,Research Assistant(Updated April 2011)www.aei.org/paper/14888
 
AEI Public OpinionStudies
 
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Table of Contents
 
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The Environment and Energy
 
 April 19, 2011: This AEI Public Opinion Study examines polls on the environment, energy, nuclear  power, and global warming. In the first section, we look at national polls on the environment. Democrats lead Republicans by a substantial margin nationally as the party best able to handleenvironmental issues. This was true in the 2008 election cycle although the polls from that timeindicated that the issue was not a top priority for voters. Barack Obama led John McCain by asubstantial margin in the polls on handling the issue.We include available trends from the major pollsters on how recent presidents have handled the issue
in this document. Questions about George W. Bush’s handling of the environment were not asked as
often as questions about his handling of foreign policy or the economy, but he tended to receivenegative marks on
the issue late in his presidency. Questions about President Barack Obama’s
handling of the environment are also not asked regularly by most pollsters. In most polls, he isreceiving positive marks, although they are not as high as they were when he came into office. (See pages 7 and 8)The polls show that the environment is not an issue on the front burner for most Americans today. In
 Pew’s
2011 question about priorities for President Obama and Congress, 40
 percent said ―protectinthe environment‖ should 
be a top priority. As a point of comparison, 87 percent said strengthening the
nation’s economy should be a top priority and 84 percent improving the job situation. On this question,more people in 2011 said dealing with the nation’s energy problem should 
be a top priority than said that about the environment (50 to 40 percent). Twenty-six percent said global warming should be a top priority (see page 16-17).
 Energy issues are looming larger this year and the polls reflect that concern. In Gallup’s ques
tion, 36  percent say protection of the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing economicgrowth, while 54 percent say economic growth should be given priority, even if the environment suffersto some extent. The 54 percent response is the highest on this question since it was first asked in 1984. Most Americans today are sympathetic to, but not active in, the environmental movement. Roughly four in ten told ABC News/Planet Green/Stanford pollsters in July 2008 that they considered themselves tobe environmentalists
 — 
down from 76 percent when Gallup first asked the same question in 1989.
 Nineteen percent in Gallup’s March 2010 poll describe themselves as ―active.‖ This is slightly higher 
than the number who say they have contacted a public official about an environmental issue (17 percent in the 2010 poll) and been active in a group or organization that works to protect the environment (17  percent in 2010). As for the environmental movement, 76 percent told Gallup in 1992 that themovement ha d definitely or probably done more good than harm. In 2010, 62 percent gave that response. In 1971, 42.9 percent of college freshmen said that being involved in programs to clean upthe environment was an objective considered essential or very important for them. In 2008 28.1 percent 
did. There is no indication from this poll or others that young people’s commitment to a clean and 
healthful environment has lessened. They, like most Americans, simply attach less urgency to it than inthe past. In polls, people frequently give their Congressional representative high marks, but rate the institutionas a whole poorly. People like their doctors, but they are critical of health maintenance organizationsand the medical profession as a whole. Somet 
hing similar may be at work in terms of people’s views
about the environment. A 2007 Yale/Global Strategy Group poll found that 32 percent rated the overallquality of the environment in the U.S. as excellent or good. Fifty-six percent gave that response for thequality of the environment in their local community.

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