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[greenyes] Environment Polling

from the conservative American Enterprise Institute (for the full report


Democrats lead Republicans by a substantial margin nationally as the party
best able to handle environmental issues, as the first table in this
collection shows. The second table looks at the power ofthe issue on
Election Day. In 2000, for example, 9 percent of voters nationwide told exit
pollsters from the Los Angeles Times that the environment was one of the top
two issues for them in casting their vote. These voters pulled the lever for
Gore over Bush, by 76 to 12 percent. As in elections past, other issues were
more important to larger numbers of voters. In the 2000 Los Angeles Times
exit poll, almost four times as many voters (35 percent) checked
morals/ethical values as the top issue for them on the exit poll ballot.

Questions about George W. Bush's handling of the environment are not asked
as often as are questions about his handling of foreign policy or the
economy. We include the trends from the major pollsters below. In the July
2003 Princeton Survey Research Associates poll for Newsweek, 47 percent
approved of the job he was doing and 38 percent disapproved.

What explains President Bush's positive rating on handling the environment
when other polls taken at roughly the same time show that people trust the
Democrats much more than the Republicans as stewards of the environment? The
data don't providea clear answer. The environment is not an issue on the
front burner for most Americans. Other issues such as the performance of the
economy and the war on terrorism loom larger. People may give a president
they generally like the benefit of the doubt on an issue they aren't
thinking a lot about.

Most Americans consider themselves sympathetic to, but not active in, the
environmental movement. The number that consider themselves active (14
percent in Gallup's March 2003 poll) is similar to the number who say they
have contacted a public official about an environmental issue (15 percent in
the same poll) and been active in a group or organization that works to
protect the environment (20 percent.)

In polls, people frequently give their Congressman high marks, but rate the
institution as a whole poorly. People like their doctors, but they are
critical of health maintenance organizations and the medical profession as a
whole. Something similar may be at work in terms of people's views about the
environment. In June 2002, 70 percent told Harris Interactive interviewers
that they felt good about the quality of the air, water, and environment
where they lived and worked. Far fewer (41 percent) in a March 2003 Gallup,
CNN, USA Today poll rated the overall quality of the environmin the country
as excellent or g ent ood.

When the public cares deeply about something, as they do about the
environment, they often give responses to surveyors that are designed to
keep the pressure on legislators. In the March 2003 Gallup poll, for
example, 57 percent said the quality of the environment nationally is
getting worse. This response doesn't mean Americans have read the latest EPA
reports on pollution levels. It simply means that they want legislators to
pay attention to environmental concerns. Publics rarely give specific
legislative advice about complex environmental policy debates in Washington.
They express broad general preferences.

Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph:    (608) 231-1100
Fax:   (608) 233-0011
Cell    (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address

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