- The Washington Times - Monday, April 19, 2004

Green seems to be fading: Gallup’s annual Earth Day poll has found that the environment is near the bottom of the nation’s concerns, outranking only worries about race relations.

Thirty-five percent of Americans fret over the quality of the environment, according to the poll of 1,005 randomly selected adults conducted March 8-11 and released yesterday. It is “not a pressing concern,” said Gallup Organization analyst Lydia Saad. The poll has a margin of error of three percentage points.

Democrats tend to be most concerned about environmental issues, with 45 percent saying they worry “a great deal” about the environment while 28 percent rate the environment’s condition as “excellent or good.” Among Republicans, the figures were 18 percent and 62 percent, respectively.

Forty-four percent of all respondents felt economic growth should take precedence over environmental protection — a significant increase for a historic “key indicator of public sympathy toward the environmental movement.” It stood at 23 percent in 2000 and at 19 percent in 1990.

A “record low proportion of Americans have chosen environmental protection over economic growth,” the poll said.

The percentage of Americans who felt the environment was more important was 49 percent, a 21 percentage-point decline since 2000’s 70 percent figure. It stood at 71 percent in 1990.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael O. Leavitt kept his message upbeat and practical for the nation’s 34th Earth Day on Thursday.

“We, the American public, have accomplished so much. Gone are the days when air pollution could turn noon to night, when rivers caught fire and toxic waste was poured down drains,” Mr. Leavitt said.

He advised Americans to celebrate, unite and to act, adding, “We know there are common-sense actions that will serve our common interests” and urging people “to anticipate a future where we can clean the environment and affirm our nation’s economic competitiveness.”

Americans are also less likely to see the environment as a long-term problem. Four years ago, the poll found that the environment was ranked as “the top problem” of the future, cited by 14 percent.

In 2004, it ranks third behind the economy, cited by 12 percent, and Social Security/Medicare, cited by 11 percent. The environment was cited by 8 percent.

And on the list of what Americans worry a “great deal” about, the quality of the environment tied for eighth place on the list, with 35 percent, just ahead of race relations at 19 percent.

Availability and affordability of health care ranked first, with 62 percent, followed by crime-violence and drug use, at 46 percent each, and terrorist attacks at 42 percent. The economy came in fifth at 41 percent.

Not everyone is convinced that the nation’s green consciousness is waning, however.

A new poll from the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land released yesterday found that 65 percent of American voters would support tax increases to fund conservation programs at the state and local levels, 73 percent consider themselves “environmentalists” and 81 percent “conservationists.”

Thirty-nine percent say their communities are growing too fast, 36 percent feel not enough land is being preserved and 40 percent said they chose candidates in the past based on their support for environmental programs.

The poll of 1,500 registered voters was conducted April 3-12 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

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