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Americans' Outlook for U.S. Environmental Quality Steady

Americans' Outlook for U.S. Environmental Quality Steady

by Rebecca Riffkin

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Half of Americans think the quality of the environment in the U.S. is getting worse, a view that has remained stable for the past five years. Americans were more pessimistic about the environmental outlook before Barack Obama became president in 2009.

Trend: Right now, do you think the quality of the environment in the country as a whole is getting better or getting worse?

The latest update is from Gallup's March 6-9 Environment poll. Although Americans' perceptions about the outlook for the environment became more positive five years ago, the public remains somewhat more negative than positive about where environmental quality is headed.

Democrats and Republicans are equally likely to say the environment is getting better -- with 42% in each party saying so -- while independents are only one percentage point less positive. Prior to 2009, Democrats were much less positive about the outlook for the environment than Republicans were. After that, perceptions among the two party groups converged, and over the last three years, their views have been almost identical.

Trend: Outlook for the Quality of the Environment in the U.S. -- by Party ID

Thus, a Democrat's taking over the presidency significantly increased rank-and-file Democrats' positive attitudes about the environment, but so far, it has not had a correspondingly negative effect on Republicans' attitudes, compared with where they were during George W. Bush's second term.

Views of the Current Quality of the Environment Fall Slightly

Americans' ratings of current environmental quality dipped slightly this year. Forty-four percent rate its quality as "good" or "excellent," down from 48% last year -- which was an all-time high since Gallup began tracking this question in 2001. Views of environmental quality mainly have been stable over time, and did not show a big change when Obama took office in 2009. However, these views have been slightly more positive since 2010 than they were from 2005 to 2009.

Trend: How would you rate the overall quality of the environment in this country today -- as excellent, good, only fair, or poor?

Democrats have historically perceived the quality of the environment as worse than Republicans and independents have. But the percentage of Democrats who rated the environment as "excellent" or "good" increased between 2009 and 2010, and has stayed at or above that level since then.

Trend: Ratings of the Quality of the Environment in the U.S. -- by Party ID

Although Republicans have historically seen the environment in the most positive light, they are less positive now than when Bush was president. In contrast, Democrats and independents rate environmental conditions more positively now than they did during most years under Bush.


Overall, Americans remain more negative than positive about the environment. They are less likely to see environmental quality in the U.S. as "excellent" or "good" (44%) than to see it as "only fair" or "poor" (55%). Additionally, half feel the environment is getting worse. More broadly, Americans are not very concerned with the environment, at least compared with other issues.

Americans' views of environmental quality in the U.S. generally appear to be linked to their party identification. Even though Republicans and Democrats now have similar opinions regarding the outlook for environmental quality, Democrats' optimism on this measure has increased dramatically since Obama became president. Independents are also now more optimistic. Republicans' outlook, however, is down at least somewhat from the heights it achieved during Bush's first term.

Democrats' views of the current quality of the environment in the U.S. have improved during Obama's presidency, while Republicans' are down from the mid-60% excellent/good range they reached when Bush was president. Thus, the future course of Americans' attitudes on the environment may depend on which party's candidate wins the presidency in 2016.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 6-9, 2014, with a random sample of 1,048 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, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

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 of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone 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 to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

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.

View survey methodology, complete question responses, and trends.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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