As politicians and their strategists gear up for November’s General Election, prospective voters can be assured they’ll hear plenty of lip service given to issues such as the economy, gas prices, taxes, the national debt and jobs in America.
But the results of a public opinion survey issued by the pollster, Gallup, last week points to an issue that isn’t likely to be high on the list of subjects for those on the campaign trail this year: the environment.
Gallup found Americans’ relative concerns about environmental issues, such as air and drinking water pollution, are currently at historic lows. Thirty-six percent of those polled say they worry a great deal about air pollution and 48 percent about pollution of drinking water. Both figures spiraled downward more than 20 percentage points during the past 12 years.
Concern about other environmental issues, like pollution of rivers and lakes, toxic waste contamination of soil and water, global warming and loss of tropical rain forests have also declined significantly over the years.
Gallup conducted the telephone interviews March 8-11, 2012, with a random sample of 1,024 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
In detailing the ramifications of the data, the pollster suggested the current economic downturn has made many Americans focus more on bread-and-butter economic issues rather than quality-of-life issues.
“It may be no coincidence that environmental concern was highest in 2000, when the U.S. was enjoying one of the strongest economies in recent memory, and that environmental concern has reached new lows recently, after the worst financial downturn in the past 25 years,” according to Gallup.
But the implications contained in the polling data for the country’s leading environmental organizations—both radical and more mainstream—are ominous, at best.
Not only will groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity have a lessened impact regarding their issues and candidate endorsements, but their ability to raise critical funds—the lifeblood of environmental activist groups—is also severely diminished.