Gallup Poll: Environmental Concerns Drop in Bad Economy

Mar 23, 2010 1:59pm

Time heals all wounds. Three Mile Island was 31 years ago this weekend and a new nuclear plant has not been commissioned in America since. But a Gallup poll now tells us 62 percent of Americans are in favor of nuclear power, the highest percentage since Gallup began asking the question regularly in 1994. The poll showed 33 percent opposed, the lowest on record. (Details HERE.) The technology is still problematic — what to do with the radioactive waste, how to keep it safe from terrorists, etc. — but nuclear plants don't need oil from overseas, don't pollute the air, don't generate carbon dioxide.

At the same time, Gallup has another poll, in which — for only the second year since they started to ask the question in 1984 — a majority of respondents (53 percent to 38 percent) said "economic growth should take priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent." In 2007, the numbers were almost precisely reversed — 55 percent favoring the environment over the economy, 37 percent saying the opposite. Details HERE.

In a way, Gallup says this is no surprise: times are tough, and when the economy is down, people say we should do what we must to get by.

But there's another part of the puzzle. In recent years, growing numbers of people have told Gallup they believe the environment is getting better — a shift from past decades. Take a look HERE. Forty-one percent say the environment is improving, up from 25 percent in 2007.

Oh, and it will be little surprise that after a ton of publicity, respondents are more doubtful that we're seeing effects of global warming.  Gallup has details HERE.

All these issues split along ideological lines, Gallup reports.  Republicans are more likely than Democrats to support nuclear, put the environment aside in a recession, and doubt that human beings are affecting the global climate. 

Pollsters point out that support for environmental protection in recent decades has always been broad (nobody favors pollution) but shallow (there are other issues that get higher priority). All the more so now; as of this afternoon, Gallup's daily tracking showed 20.3 percent of respondents reporting they were underemployed or unemployed.

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