The Gallup pollsters have been on the phone again. They’ve reported two surveys on energy and the environment in the past week. What they have to say about American attitudes may surprise you. It may also play a role in the upcoming 2016 elections.
The polls found that in March 2015, US citizens have two central attitudes toward these subjects:
- The government is not doing enough to protect the environment, and
- The government overly emphasizes energy production.
One poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans (86%) believe that the federal government is doing either “too little … in terms of protecting the environment” (48%, or practically half the nation) or “the right amount” (34%). Only 16% see too much government emphasis on environmental concerns.
According to the other poll, conducted March 5-8, US citizens put a higher priority (49%) on environment over development of energy supplies (39%), a full 10% difference. About one out of 10 people (11%) either had no opinion or could not choose.
It’s interesting to speculate on why all these results so closely resemble those of last year. A number of factors have changed somewhat since then. Among them:
- The natural gas boom has continued.
- Fuel prices have dropped dramatically.
- Solar and wind technologies have experienced massive growth.
- Scientists expect worse consequences from climate change.
- The President strengthened emission regulations from fossil-fueled power plants.
- The President vetoed the last proposed extension of the Keystone XL pipeline.
- The 2014 elections brought Republican majorities to both houses of Congress.
(Other contributions gratefully accepted.) Either these influences are balancing each other out, or they do not make as much difference as pundits think they do.
A political party split characterizes American opinions. Democrats favor protection of the environment, and Republicans favor energy development (see graph). In a political context, the percentage divide is greater than the difference in popular votes between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, and Franklin D. Roosevelt and either Tom Dewey or Wendell Willkie.
Voters have always placed the environment low on their list of pressing political concerns. However, Americans historically place energy production even lower. In Global Research today, Eric Zuesse opines that this, “plus the highly Democratic slant of Independents on those two issues, could turn that low-priority concern into a kingmaker (or queenmaker) in the 2016 campaigns.”
Considering the pro-environmental leaning of Independents, the recent media blast of self-congratulation (“The US is Number One”) from the oil and gas industry may only serve to widen the divide. The numbers also indicate that it would be prudent for Republicans to back off their bloc-vote insistence on climate change denial.
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