As the EPA keeps pushing forward with more and more regulatory interventions, such as the Clean Power Plan and their attempt to claim jurisdiction over intrastate emissions, Americans worry less and less about environmental issues. Gallup’s latest poll shows a slide in concern across the board from a year ago, and nearly a collapse over the last 15 years. Not surprisingly, global warming comes in last among those concerns even for Democrats inclined to support environmentalism:
Americans’ concern about several major environmental threats has eased after increasing last year. As in the past, Americans express the greatest worry about pollution of drinking water, and the least about global warming or climate change.
Despite ups and downs from year to year in the percentage worried about the various issues, the rank order of the environmental problems has remained fairly consistent over the decades. Americans express greater concern over more proximate threats — including pollution of drinking water, as well as pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs, and air pollution — than they do about longer-term threats such as global warming, the loss of rain forests, and plant and animal extinction.
The amount Americans worry about the various threats tends to rise and recede in unison, with concern higher in the late 1980s and early 1990s during the revival of environmentalism, and in the late 1990s and early 2000s amid the economic boom. Since then, Americans’ worry has fallen, with concern dipping to record lows on most issues in 2010 or 2011. The current level of worry on each issue remains at or near those record lows.
Gallup charted out the trends for each of the response areas:
Americans remain reasonably concerned over drinking water and its main sources, although not overly so. Most conservatives want government at some level to ensure clean drinking water, even if they want to debate which level and which policies should be used for that purpose. The rest of these concerns drop into minority positions dramatically, and at levels that have dropped rather than increased even after last year’s political campaign. Tom Steyer poured as much as $70 million into the midterms, and yet only got a momentary bounce and a letdown for his cash.
The more significant trending can be seen from the graph, but it’s even more plain in Gallup’s tables. Over the last 15 years, concern has declined in almost all of these areas by double digits, and in both parties. Even among Democrats and their leaners, the level of great concern has dropped between 12% and 16% in each of the top four topics. Only concern for global warming/climate change has trended upward in that longer period — and then only by 4%, within the MOE, and still ranked dead last. Among Republicans and GOP leaners, concern for the top four areas declined between 21%-28%, and concern over global warming fell more than half to 13%.
Democrats claim that they will make environment a big issue in the 2016 cycle. If they do, they will have the same results as they did in 2014, or perhaps even worse, when Democrats insisted on obsessing over environmentalism and the “war on women,” and ended up talking past voters whose priorities they ignored.