Poll Says Environmental Protection More Important Than Economy

According to a new Gallup poll, Americans are more likely to say protection of the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth. Since 2009, during the economic downturn, Americans generally prioritized economic growth over the environment, except for immediately after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in May 2010.

According to the poll, Americans picked the environment over economic growth by a 50 to 41 percent margin. When Americans prioritize the environment over economic growth, it could be a sign that they perceive a healthier U.S. economy. Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index has rebounded since the Great Recession, suggesting Americans believe that the U.S. economy is improving.

However, Democrats and Republicans are sharply divided as to whether the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth. Two-thirds of Democrats say the environment should be prioritized higher, while about one-third of Republicans say the same thing. This is the largest partisan gulf since 1997. Pollsters say that perhaps the gap between Republicans and Democrats on the issue can be explained by the increasing polarization between the two parties over the issue of climate change and global warming.

Among age groups, Americans aged 18 to 29 are most likely to say the environment should be given priority over economic growth, by a 60 to 30 percent margin. Americans aged 65 and older, on the other hand, say economic growth should be prioritized, by a margin of 50 to 39 percent. Both 30 to 49 year-olds and 50 to 64 year-olds prioritize the environment over economic growth, but the gap between the two topics narrows as the age group becomes older.

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