Survey: Feds falling short on protecting the environment; Americans split on solutions
(CNS) - A majority of Americans think the federal government is not doing enough to protect the environment, the Pew Research Center reported Monday, but preferred solutions to those problems are divided along party lines.
In a survey of more than 2,500 adults between March 27 and April 9, Pew researchers found that 57 to 69 percent of respondents felt that the federal government has done too little to protect the environment in five categories. However, those averages obscure a stark partisan divide in how to regulate environmental protections.
For example, while 93 percent of Democratic respondents felt that the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change, only 22 percent of Republicans said the same.
Similar results were found in other categories on the question of the government doing too little, including water quality (91 percent of Democrats compared to 39 percent of Republicans), air quality (89 versus 26 percent), animal protections (87 versus 33 percent) and national park protections (83 versus 26 percent).
Such contrasts align with Republican support for continued use of fossil fuels. Overall, Republican respondents tended to favor any and every energy solution, whereas Democrats favored only renewable energy sources.
While a majority of respondents from both parties favored increased utilization of solar and wind power solutions, most Republicans said they support fossil fuel extraction, including offshore drilling, hydraulic fracturing and coal mining,
A stark minority of Democrats agreed. Twenty-two percent of Democrats surveyed said they support offshore drilling, 25 percent support hydraulic fracturing, and 20 percent support coal mining.
According to the Pew study, Americans from both parties are aligned closely on nuclear power, with 53 percent of Republicans and 39 percent of Democrats in support of more nuclear power plants.
A majority from both parties found a number of categories to be priorities for U.S. energy policy, though Republican respondents were more favorable in reducing foreign sources (80 of Republicans versus 61 percent of Democrats), reducing consumer prices (71 versus 61 percent) and job creation (59 versus 56 percent).
Democratic respondents were more favorable to utilization of renewable sources (80 percent of Democrats versus 59 percent of Republicans), which lends itself to increased support for protecting the environment (83 versus 56 percent).
An overall majority of Americans surveyed by Pew said they felt that more environmental regulations were necessary, but 65 percent of Republicans said they believe that the private marketplace would begin relying on renewable sources without governmental intervention, while 72 percent of Democrats felt that regulations were necessary nonetheless.
The data from the Pew survey showed a connection between the belief in the need for more environmental regulations and acceptance of climate change.
Only 18 percent of conservative Republicans said they believe climate change has been caused by human activity, whereas 46 percent believe the changes were part of a “natural pattern.” Thirty-six percent of conservative respondents believe there is no solid evidence of global warming.
In contrast, 83 percent of liberal Democrats said they believe climate change was caused by human activity, only 15 percent believe it to be a natural pattern and just 2 percent believe there is no solid evidence of warming.
While 40 percent of conservative Republican respondents believe that scientists have warned about climate change’s long-term effects, only 18 percent agreed with their findings. In contrast, 88 percent of liberal Democrats acknowledge scientists’ warnings and 83 percent agree with them.
However, a 59-percent majority of all respondents acknowledge that climate change has affected their communities directly, including weather and temperature changes and plant damage.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, swaths of the U.S. southern coastlines saw record high temperatures in 2017.
Additionally, the West Coast and states surrounding the Great Lakes saw record levels of rainfall last year. Arid states such as Montana and Wyoming saw record dry spells.
Ultimately, Republicans and Democrats might see the root of their divide not in the environment itself, but in how regulations might affect the economy.
A 66-percent majority of conservative Republicans said they believe that environmental regulations would hurt the U.S. economy, whereas 53 percent of liberal Democrats said regulations would help the economy.
The data overlap suggests that conservatives are more likely to believe that climate change is either overblown or less relevant than a booming economy, whereas liberals are more likely to prioritize environmental protections above job creation, particularly in the fossil fuel industry.