- Levels of worry tick up on six environmental issues
- Worry about polluted drinking water highest, at 61%
- Concerns about pollution of rivers, lakes up nine percentage points
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After declining last year, Americans' worries about several environmental issues ticked upward in 2016, and are now mostly back to 2014 levels. A majority express "a great deal" of concern about polluted drinking water (61%) and the pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs (56%). These increases come as details surrounding the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, continue to emerge.
|A great deal, 2014%||A great deal, 2015%||A great deal, 2016%|
|Pollution of drinking water||60||55||61|
|Pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs||53||47||56|
|Extinction of plant and animal species||41||36||42|
|The loss of tropical rain forests||41||33||39|
|Global warming or climate change||34||32||37|
|Gallup Poll Social Series: Environment|
Gallup's annual Environment survey, conducted March 2-6 this year, also documents the percentages of Americans who say they personally worry "a great deal" about air pollution (43%), the extinction of plant and animal species (42%), the loss of tropical rain forests (39%) and global warming or climate change (37%). The percentage saying they worry a great deal about each issue increased by five or more percentage points from last year, after each showed a decline from 2014 to 2015. Concerns about air pollution, climate change and the pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs are similar to where they were in 2014, as are levels of concern regarding the other three issues.
Polluted drinking water and the pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs have consistently topped Americans' concerns throughout Gallup's 27-year trend measuring these environmental issues. Climate change worries have regularly appeared at the bottom of the list.
From a longer-term perspective, the current percentages of Americans worrying a great deal about polluted drinking water and the pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs are on the high end of figures recorded over the past 16 years, but remain below where they were in the 1980s and 1990s.
Democrats Worry More About Environmental Issues
In general, Americans' concerns about most environmental issues have receded from higher levels seen in the 1980s and 1990s, when a renewed sentiment of environmentalism prevailed.
Republicans, however, have consistently expressed less worry than Democrats about each of the environmental issues. This year, Democrats' levels of concern range from 71% worried about polluted drinking water to 47% worried about the loss of tropical rain forests. Among Republicans, levels of concern range from 48% worried about polluted drinking water to 18% worried about climate change.
While levels of concern among the two major parties stayed the same or declined from 2014 to 2015, they reverted this year to 2014 levels. Democrats' concerns about polluted drinking water and the pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs are higher now than two years ago.
|Pollution of drinking water||67||64||71|
|Pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs||62||55||67|
|The loss of tropical rain forests||51||39||47|
|Extinction of plant and animal species||50||46||49|
|Global warming or climate change||53||52||53|
|Pollution of drinking water||50||43||48|
|Pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs||41||36||40|
|The loss of tropical rain forests||27||24||26|
|Extinction of plant and animal species||28||24||30|
|Global warming or climate change||16||13||18|
|Gallup Poll Social Series: Environment|
As details about the Flint water crisis emerge following a congressional hearing on the matter, Americans' concerns about water pollution are slightly higher than last year, but generally mirror trend averages. The Flint crisis may have simply underlined a recurring concern, given that worries about water pollution have appeared atop the public's environmental concern list in all previous years.
The 2016 presidential election shines a spotlight on these ecological issues -- and others such as climate change, carbon emissions and hydraulic fracturing -- by forcing candidates to address key policy decisions they would have to make as commander in chief. The viewpoints of their respective party's rank and file differ drastically, however, which complicates the next president's ability to alleviate the concerns of all Americans.
Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story contained data from a different question on climate change. This story has since been revised to reflect the climate change question in the environmental trend.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 2-6, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,019 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. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.