2009 in Review: Public Opinion on the Environment

2009 in Review: Public Opinion on the Environment

When I looked back on mytweets for 2009, I found a lot on polls and surveys regarding public opinion on the environment. Much of it was conflicting, so it's not surprising that people are confused.

 
But when you look back at the data in total you have to come to the conclusion that it was not a particularly good year for environmental advocates in the arena of public opinion. The economic downturn pushed environmental issues further down the public priority list while belief in and concern about global warming declined despite the ubiquity of the subject in the news.
 
Considering how important this subject is to sustainability communications, I've added a section of links to this info on the sidebar and undertook a recap of the major polls on the subject from 2009:
 
On December 23, Quinnipiac University released a poll finding that "most voters say the U.S. should not sign a treaty promising to reduce greenhouse gases, or should not sign such a treaty unless other nations do the same."
 
A majority of respondents from Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, Russia, and the United States to a December 17 Gallup Poll thought that developed and fast emerging economies should reduce emissions simultaneously and that no group should be obligated to "go first."
 
A December 7 Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that only 15% of adults favored raising the gas tax. Even fewer said that was a good idea to implement a gas tax in order to encourage people to purchase more fuel-efficient cars.
 
On December 6, The Nielsen Company and the Oxford University Institute of Climate Change released the results of an online survey of 27,000 people showing a decline in concern for climate change. Slideshere.
 
On December 2, Pew Research released survey data showing that large majorities in every country surveyed believed that global warming was a "serious problem," while majorities in 15 of the 25 thought it was "very serious." Majorities in 23 of the 25 countries agreed with the statement: "Protecting the environment should be given priority, even if it causes slower economic growth and some job losses." Full study (with environmental issues section starting on page 87) can be foundhere.
 
Another survey released December 2, this one from Harris Interactive, found that those who believe that "the release of carbon dioxide and other gases will lead to global warming has dropped from 71% two years ago to only 51% now."
 
Fewer Americans responding to a national survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released October 22 saw solid evidence of global warming. Pew Research offered possible reasons for this steep decline here.
 
A July 9 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that 70 percent of the American public had a high regard for scientists while most scientist faulted the media for oversimplifying their issues and failing to distinguish between well-founded findings and those that are not.
 
In a July 1 national telephone survey from Rasmussen Reports, 56 percent of Americans indicated that they were not willing to pay more in taxes and higher utility fees to fight global warming. Just over half said that keeping energy costs low was more important than developing clean energy and 63 percent said it was more important to create jobs than fight global warming.
 
The 2009 Greendex survey from National Geographic found an increase in environmentally-friendly consumer behavior in 13 of the 14 countries they surveyed in 2008. The U.S. still ranked last of the 17 countries surveyed in 2009. Full study available here (pdf).
 
A survey of 1,006 people conducted in April and May by the Shelton Group found that 60 percent of consumers were looking for green products but were confused by what the different eco-labels.
 
On Earth Day, Gallup released a slew of data on polling they did in 127 countries in 2007 and 2008, revealing that:
A survey released April 3 from Public Agenda entitled "The Energy Learning Curve" found that the public supported a wide variety of energy policies aimed at increasing efficiency, reducing fossil fuel usage and increasing alternative energy...as long as it didn't cost them more money.
 
A majority of the public (59%) favored setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions and making companies pay for their emissions, even if that may mean higher energy prices, according to a national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released March 25.
 
A survey (pdf) from the Yale Project on Climate Change and theGeorge Mason University Center for Climate Change Communicationfound that 90 percent of the public wanted the United States to act to reduce global warming but only 34 percent said that action should be "a large scale effort" regardless of the economic costs.
 
A March 11, 2009 Gallup Poll found that 41 percent of American's believe that global warming is "Exaggerated" while 28 percent thought it was underestimated.
 
And the year started with a January 7-11 survey of 1,503 people from Pew showing that the environment was 16th on the public list of priorities while global warming was 20th and dead last. Complete report here.
 
Nathan Schock's personal blog,  http://www.greenwaycommunique.com, is the primary hub for communicating sustainability and bringing people together who do the same.

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