Three-quarters of U.S. adults agree environmental standards can't be too high

Recent Harris Poll of 1,217 adults found they also feel continuing improvements must be made regardless of cost. Nearly half think there's too little government regulation and involvement in the area of environmental protection. Over half point to water pollution as the No. 1 priority...

ROCHESTER, NY, Oct. 13, 2005 (PRNewswire) -- Three in four U.S. adults (74%) agree that "protecting the environment is so important that requirements and standards cannot be too high, and continuing environmental improvements must be made regardless of cost." In addition, a plurality of adults (47%) agree that "there is too little government regulation and involvement in the area of environmental protection." These attitudes are significantly more pro-environment than in 2000, the last time Harris Interactive examined these issues.

These are some of the results of a Harris Poll of 1,217 U.S. adults surveyed by telephone by Harris Interactive® between Aug. 9 and 16, 2005. It is important to note that this survey was conducted prior to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, events which have placed some additional focus on environmental issues.
Major findings of the survey include:
* While the proportion of adults who agree that it is important to protect and improve the environment regardless of cost has increased over the last five years (66% in 2000 vs. 74% now), a significant proportion of the public currently disagrees with this statement (25%).
-- This year, Democrats (85%) are more likely to agree with this
statement than Independents (75%) or Republicans (60%).
-- Liberals (82%) and moderates (77%) are more likely to agree with
this statement than conservatives (69%).

* Just fewer than half of U.S. adults (47%) think the amount of government regulation and involvement in the area of environmental protection is too little, while a third (32%) says it is about the right amount and a fifth (19%) believes it is too much. The percentage of adults believing the amount of regulation and involvement is too little has increased since 2000 when 39% of adults felt this way.
-- Currently, Democrats (61%) are more likely to believe there is too
little government oversight with respect to environmental
protection than Independents (55%) or Republicans (23%).
-- At the same time, a higher%age of liberals (67%) than
moderates (56%) or conservatives (27%) feels there is too little
government regulation and involvement.

* According to U.S. adults, water pollution and air pollution are the top environmental priorities for the nation. When asked to rate the priority of seven environmental issues on a scale of one to 10 where one means "a low priority" and 10 means "a high priority,", about half (52%) of adults rate water pollution a "9" or "10" while 48% rate air pollution this high of a priority.
-- The second tier of priorities includes global warming, ozone
depletion, and depletion of forest lands (each rated a "9" or "10"
by 41% of adults).
-- Recycling more material (39% rate it "9" or "10") and insisting
that other nations adhere to our level of environmental standards
(26% rate it a "9" or "10") trail as high priorities.

* Just one of eight groups examined is credited with doing more than their share to help reduce environmental problems.
-- A plurality of adults (42%) believe environmental groups are doing
more than their share to help reduce environmental problems. On the
other side of the coin, 71% believe large corporations are
doing less than their share.
-- The general public does not escape its own wrath as 63% of
adults say the general public does less than its share. Majorities
also feel local businesses (50%), the president (53%), and Congress
(57%) are doing less than their share.
-- Conversely, the public has mixed views on the role of state or
local government. Forty-six percent say they are doing less than
their share, 43% believe their efforts are about right, and
10% believe they are doing more than their share. The media
also receives mixed reviews (44% less than, 37% about right, and
18% more than their share).

* A majority of all U.S. adults (58%) describe themselves as sympathetic to environmental concerns, while 12% say they are active environmentalists, four% are unsympathetic, and 24% consider themselves neutral. These figures are relatively unchanged in the surveys dating back to 1995 (53% sympathetic, 11% environmentalist, 5% unsympathetic, and 29% neutral).

Wirthlin Worldwide conducted this study in 2000 and earlier. The company was acquired by Harris Interactive in 2004.

Included below are portions of other tables provided in the original document ("Three-Quarters of U.S. Adults Agree Environmental Standards Cannot Be Too High and Continuing Improvements Must Be Made Regardless of Cost"). Click on the above link for full data in each table below.

• TABLE 2. IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTING AND IMPROVING THE ENVIRONMENT - 1981-2005
"Do you agree or disagree with this statement: Protecting the environment is so important that requirements and standards cannot be too high, and continuing environmental Improvements must be made regardless of cost. And is that strongly or somewhat agree or disagree?"

Base: All adults -- % saying strongly or somewhat agree 74% up from 66% in 2000 and 45% in 1981.

• TABLE 3. AMOUNT OF REGULATION AND INVOLVEMENT IN ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION - BY POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

"Do you think there is too much, too little, or about the right amount of government regulation and involvement in the area of environmental protection?"

Base: All Adults -- Too much - 19%, Too little - 47%, About right - 32%, Not sure - 2%.

• TABLE 5. PRIORITY OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS

"Now, I am going to read a list of environmental problems. For each problem, please tell me HOW HIGH OF A PRIORITY you feel that problem is, using a scale of 1 to 10, where "1" means the problem is a low priority and "10" means the problem is a high priority."

Base: All Adults --% giving a rating of 9 or 10: Water pollution, 52%; Air Pollution, 48%; Global Warming, 41%; Ozone Depletion, 41%; Forest Lands Depletion, 41%; Recycling More Material, 39%; Insisting that other nations adhere to our level of environmental standards, 26%.

• TABLE 6. REDUCING ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS

"For each of the following, please tell me if you feel they've done more than their share, just about right, or less then their share to help reduce environmental problems."

Categories: Environmental groups, the media, state or local government, general public, local businesses, large corporations, the President, Congress. See link for full data.

• TABLE 7. IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTING AND IMPROVING THE ENVIRONMENT - 1995-2005

"Do you think of yourself as an active environmentalist, sympathetic to environmental concerns, neutral, or unsympathetic to environmental concerns?"

(See link above for full data.)

Harris Interactive Inc. (www.harrisinteractive.com) is the 13th largest and fastest-growing market research firm in the world, perhaps best known for The Harris Poll® and for pioneering and engineering Internet-based research methods. The Rochester, New York-based global research company blends premier strategic consulting with innovative and efficient methods of investigation, analysis and application, conducting proprietary and public research globally to help clients achieve clear, material and enduring results.

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