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Gallup Poll Shows Americans Choose Economy Over Environment

November 10, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Americans have dramatically changed their priorities since 2008 when considering the trade-offs between economic growth and environmental protection. Americans showed a strong preference for environmental protection as recently as 2007 in Gallup’s national surveys. But those priorities flipped in 2009, and pro-economy attitudes have soared, according to a news release.

Gallup found the widest margin in nearly 30 years between Americans’ prioritizing economic growth or environmental protection in its 2011 polling. Americans have given the environment higher priority since 1984, when Gallup first asked respondents to prioritize either economic growth or environmental protection. Americans overall favored the environment over the economy by a better than 2-to-1 margin (67% to 28%) in Gallup’s 2000 Environment poll. All major demographic subgroups – which distinguish characteristics like age, race, gender, political affiliation, education and socio-economic background – were strongly pro-environment at that time. Americans began prioritizing the economy over the environment when the economic downturn began in 2008, and the Gallup poll in 2009 was the first to show a preference for economic growth.

The 2011 poll emphasized a dramatic shift towards a pro-economy position in all major demographic subgroups, but the greatest shifts have come from those on the political right. Conservatives prioritized the environment over the economy by a 29-point margin in 2000, but prioritized the economy over the environment by 48 points in 2011 – a total shift of 77 points in 11 years. Liberals prioritized the environment by 52 points in 2000, and by 20 points in 2011, a shift of 32 points in the same time frame. While the shift varies with political ideology, the trend toward favoring the importance of the economy is marked for all Americans. There is a much larger political difference on the issues of the environment and the economy in the public today than in 2000.

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