On the same day that Obama announced his offshore drilling plans, CNN released the disheartening results—for environmentalists, anyway—of its latest opinion poll: More than half of respondents said that the economy should be a higher priority than the environment, even if it meant halting or slowing environmental protections. Only 3 percent gave the two equal bearing.
Sadly, this isn’t an April Fools Day joke.
Just four years ago, before the current recession came on full force, a March 2006 CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll showed the numbers flipped; 52 percent of Americans placed the environment as issue numero uno over the economy. In fact, the environment has taken top billing all 20 times polls like this have asked this question. (The oldest results are from 1984.)
But not now. We’re also divided on this issue by age and political affiliation: “Most Americans under 50 years old choose the environment; most older Americans pick the economy,” said CNN’s Polling Director Keating Holland said, on CNN’s Political Ticker. “Not surprisingly, there is a partisan gap as well, with most Democrats giving the environment the top spot while 56 percent of Independents and seven out of 10 Republicans choose the economy.”
It’s obviously a different atmosphere now, with one of the worst recessions we’ve seen in years. But hopefully we can find room (and resources, motivation, and energy) to fix the economy and the environment.
Here are the actual poll questions from CNN/Opinion Research:
1. With which one of these statements about the environment and the economy do you most agree: Protection of the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth, or economic growth should be given priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent?
Environment a priority – 45%
Economy a priority – 51%
Both equal – 3%
No opinion – 1%
2. Do you think that the environmental laws and regulations that are currently on the books are adequate, should go further than they do, or have they gone too far already?
Adequate – 26%
Should go further – 43%
Go too far already – 29%
No opinion – 2%
If you were asked these questions, how would you answer?
[Note: 1,030 Americans, including 953 registered voters answered this poll, conducted from March 19 through March 21.]