Poll: Economy More Important Than Environment to Americans

ROCHESTER, New York, July 30, 2008 (ENS) – A majority of Americans who responded to a June online survey say economic growth and development is more important to their region than environmental protection.

A Harris Poll conducted online among 2,454 adults aged 18 and over between June 9 and 16 found that as economic conditions worsen, people who are asked to make a decision between protecting the environment or economic growth and development have moved more strongly into the economic growth column.

More than three in five (63 percent) say economic growth and development is more important to their region while one-quarter (27 percent) believe protecting the environment is more important.

Still, many polls, including earlier Harris Polls, show very strong support for strengthening environmental protections and regulations.

Worker oversees sorting of solar cells
after final test at the BP Solar
factory in Frederick, Maryland.
(Photo courtesy BP Solar/ NREL)

Also, said Harris Interactive in a statement today, “most people do not see the hard trade off between economic development and protecting the environment. In fact, many people believe that we not only can do both of these, but that we should be doing both.”

The emphasis on economic growth over environmental protection has grown during the last year.

In a similar Harris survey conducted in June 2007, just under a majority (48 percent) thought economic growth was more important while 43 percent believed protecting the environment was more important.

In a November Harris survey, a 51 percent majority said they believed economic growth was more important, while 37 percent favored environmental protection.

U.S. respondents are divided evenly on how they perceive the direction of events in their own community – 38 percent say things are going in the right direction while 37 percent believe things have “pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.”

This perception has changed over the past seven months. In November, almost half (47 percent) of respondents to a similar Harris poll felt things were going off on the wrong track in their community and one-third (32 percent) felt they were going in the right direction.

Looking ahead to the future, just over half of U.S. adults (56 percent) believe that the quality of life in the area where they live will decrease for their children and grandchildren while 44 percent believe it will increase.

Younger generations are more optimistic on this point. More than half (56 percent) of Echo Boomers aged 18-31 believe the quality of life will increase compared to 38 percent of Baby Boomers aged 44-62 and one-third of those aged 63 and older.

In Canada, there are different opinions on some of these topics.

Canadians are more evenly split on which is more important, economics or environment – 45 percent say economic growth and development are more important while 44 percent believe protecting the environment is of greater importance.

Canadians are more positive about the direction of their community as 63 percent believe things in their community are going in the right direction and 37 percent say they are going off on the wrong track.

One area in which Canadians and Americans agree is the quality of life in their region for children and grandchildren. Fifty-six percent of Canadians say it will decrease and 44 percent believe it will increase – the same percentages hold true for American respondents.

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