PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' perceptions that the quality of the environment is getting better have stabilized in recent years after improving shortly after President Obama took office. While slightly more Americans still say the environment is worsening rather than improving, the current 49% to 42% split is much narrower than what Gallup measured throughout George W. Bush's presidency.
The results are based on Gallup's annual Environment poll, conducted March 8-11.
Both Democrats and independents are more optimistic about the outlook for the environment than they were during the final year of the Bush presidency, while Republicans' relatively positive views in 2008 have been maintained thus far in Obama's presidency. As a result, since Obama took office, Democrats and Republicans have had similar outlook ratings. This year, 45% of Democrats and 44% of Republicans say the environment is getting better.
Americans' ratings of current environmental conditions are also a bit better than in the past. Now, 44% rate the quality of the environment as "excellent" or "good," while 55% say they are "only fair" or "poor."
The percentage rating conditions as excellent or good is up from an average 40% from 2005-2009, and similar to the ratings from 2001 and 2002. The increase in environmental quality ratings was first evident in 2010 -- a year after the jump in Americans' perceptions that the quality of the environment was getting better.
Among party groups, Republicans' rating of environmental quality as "excellent" or "good" is the highest, at 60%. Democrats' ratings have steadily increased since 2010, and now 41% rate the environment positively. Independents' ratings increased in the first two years of the Obama presidency but have since declined, currently giving them the least positive rating of the three groups.
Americans continue to be a bit more upbeat about the environment since President Obama took office than they were during the latter part of George W. Bush's presidency. Still, Americans are more negative than positive about the environment, overall -- with more who say it is getting worse than say it is getting better, and more rating current conditions as only fair or poor than excellent or good.
It is not clear whether the improved ratings are related to actual improvements in environmental conditions; they may simply be due to the perception that the current administration is more environmentally friendly than the prior one. That the jump in environmental outlook ratings in 2009 occurred less than two months into Obama's term would seem to confirm this.
Ratings of current environmental conditions, on the other hand, didn't improve until a year into the Obama presidency, so these may be more rooted in what people observe and hear about the quality of the environment.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted 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.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.