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Americans Give Efforts to Preserve Environment a Thumbs Down
Gallup Blog

Americans Give Efforts to Preserve Environment a Thumbs Down

by Kristjan Archer

This article is second in a series on global views toward efforts to preserve the environment.

With wildfires, flooding and earthquakes affecting many parts of the U.S., the conversation about climate change is already a talking point for several politicians ahead of the 2020 presidential election. And, with less than half of Americans (46%) satisfied with efforts to preserve the environment -- which is on the low end for all Gallup measures since 2006 -- they may have a receptive audience.

Alt text: Line graph. The majority of Americans are dissatisfied with efforts to preserve the environment.

Several candidates in the first Democratic debates in June cited climate change as the biggest geopolitical threat facing the U.S. In contrast, during the 2016 general election, no presidential candidates were asked any climate change questions during their debates. While few Americans typically name climate change or the environment as a top problem facing the U.S., higher dissatisfaction with efforts to preserve the environment has been brewing since 2016.

Gallup's World Poll does not ask people about their political leanings. However, Americans' dissatisfaction with environmental preservation is most prevalent among groups that typically lean Democratic -- young Americans and those with higher education -- and those who disapprove of Donald Trump's job performance so far in his presidency.

In this country, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with efforts to preserve the environment?
By presidential job approval
Satisfied Dissatisfied
% %
Approve of job Trump is doing 82 18
Disapprove of job Trump is doing 25 73
Gallup World Poll, 2018

Gallup's annual Environment poll in April 2019 found that six in 10 Americans believe the U.S. government is doing too little in terms of protecting the environment. However, when one breaks the data down by demographics, we see a more nuanced picture. Democrats are significantly more likely than Republicans to believe the U.S. is doing too little to preserve the environment (86%). Further, 62% of Republicans say the government is doing "about the right amount" to protect the environment.

This split down party lines can also be seen on the political stage with prominent Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders pushing for Congress to declare climate change a national emergency, while Trump tweeted in the past that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese.

Gallup has asked Americans for their opinions on reducing the United States' use of fossil fuels, and while the future of the Green New Deal proposed in Congress is uncertain, most Americans support the general idea of dramatically reducing the country's use of fossil fuels over the next two decades as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change.


The 2020 presidential campaign is unlikely to be a single-issue race -- and with continued media attention on climate change, it is likely to be a fixture in the election discourse, particularly among Democratic candidates and voters. Because of the nature of the issue and the concerns around it, Democrats could potentially use it with great effect by defining it as a national security issue, similar to how Trump framed immigration at the Southern border in the 2016 election.

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