- 56% in U.S. think government doing too little to protect environment
- Majorities expect Biden will do good job on environment and energy policy
- Expectations for Biden exceed Trump, fall short of Obama
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Early in Joe Biden's tenure as president, a slightly diminished 56% majority of Americans think the U.S. government is doing too little to protect the environment. This marks a five-percentage-point decline from one year ago and coincides with a nine-point increase in those saying the government is doing too much (15%). Meanwhile, an essentially unchanged 29% say the government's actions are about right.
Line graph. Americans' views of whether the U.S. government is doing too much, too little or about the right amount to protect the environment since 1992. Currently, 56% say the government is doing too little, 29% say it is about the right amount, and 15% think it is too much. Compared with one year ago, this marks a five-percentage-point decline in those saying it is too little and a nine-point increase in those saying it is too much.
Since 1992, when Gallup first measured opinions on this question, majorities of Americans have often said the government is doing too little to protect the environment. But that view has tended to be more prevalent under recent Republican presidents -- George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Donald Trump -- when large majorities said so. In contrast, the figure averaged 49% under Barack Obama.
Nevertheless, throughout the trend, Americans have been consistently more likely to say the government's efforts are about right than to say it is doing too much to protect the environment.
Partisans' Views Have Shifted With New President
The latest data from Gallup's annual Environment poll conducted March 1-15 finds the changes in Americans' views in the past year are largely driven by partisans' shifting opinions since Biden became president. In his brief time in office, Biden has taken a number of concrete steps to reverse some of Trump's environmental policies, including rejoining the Paris climate agreement and rescinding the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline. He also ordered federal agencies to review more than 100 of the Trump administration's policies that rolled back many of the Obama administration's environmental regulations.
Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents have subsequently become slightly more likely to say the government's actions to protect the environment are about right, rising from 9% last year to 19% this year. Fewer Democrats now say the government is doing too little than a year ago, 89% to 80%.
Since 2000, majorities of Democrats, ranging from 60% to 89%, have believed the government is not doing enough to protect the environment. This spanned both Republican and Democratic administrations but has tended to be higher when Republicans were in office. Given that Biden has only been in office for a short time, Democrats' views are likely to change in the next few years.
Line graph. Democrats' views of whether the U.S. government is doing too much, too little or about the right amount in terms of protecting the environment since 2000. Currently, 80% say the government is doing too little, 19% say it is about the right amount, and 1% think it is too much. Compared with one year ago, this marks a nine-percentage-point decline in those saying it is too little and a 10-point increase in those saying it is about the right amount.
At the same time, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, who became much more likely under Trump's leadership to say the government's efforts on environmental protection were about right, feel differently now. The percentage of Republicans who think the government is doing about the right amount to protect the environment has fallen 18 points to 40%, while the percentage saying the government is doing too much has risen 22 points to 32%. Meanwhile, the 27% of Republicans who think the government is doing too little has not changed much.
The 32% "too much" reading has returned to the same record-high level it was at throughout much of Obama's presidency. Generally, Republicans have been more likely to think environmental policy is about right when a Republican occupies the White House and more likely to say it is too much when a Democrat is president.
Line graph. Republicans' views of whether the U.S. government is doing too much, too little or about the right amount in terms of protecting the environment since 2000. Currently, 40% say it is about the right amount, 32% think it is too much, and 27% say the government is doing too little. Compared with one year ago, this marks a 22-point increase in the percentage of those saying it is too much, an 18-percentage-point decline in those saying it is about the right amount and a four-point decline in the percentage saying it is too little.
Americans' Expectations of First-Term Presidents' Environmental Action
Since 2001, when George W. Bush was president, Gallup has tracked Americans' expectations of the job each new president would do protecting the environment and improving U.S. energy policy.
Sixty-five percent of Americans think Biden will do a good job handling the environment, which is not as high as the reading for Obama (79%) but much higher than those for Republican presidents Bush (51%) and Trump (36%).
Meanwhile, more U.S. adults believe that Biden (56%) will do a good job handling energy policy than thought the same of Trump (46%). Expectations of Biden are roughly on par with those of Bush (58%) but below those of Obama (72%).
Democrats' beliefs that Biden will do a good job handling the environment (92%) and energy policy (90%) are similar to the readings for Obama. Yet, Republicans' confidence in Biden is lower than it was for Obama, which accounts for Obama's higher readings overall.
|Protecting nation's environment||Improving nation's energy policy|
|Joe Biden (2021)||65||56|
|Donald Trump (2017)||36||46|
|Barack Obama (2009)||79||72|
|George W. Bush (2001)||51||58|
|Joe Biden (2021)||92||90|
|Donald Trump (2017)||11||18|
|Barack Obama (2009)||95||93|
|George W. Bush (2001)||33||40|
|Joe Biden (2021)||34||17|
|Donald Trump (2017)||66||80|
|Barack Obama (2009)||64||46|
|George W. Bush (2001)||71||80|
|All readings are from March|
|GALLUP, Mar. 1-15, 2021|
Although a majority of Americans continue to think the government is not doing enough to protect the environment, fewer do so than one year ago, and more now say it is doing too much. Both Republicans and Democrats are less likely now than they were last year to say the government is doing too little, but Republicans have shifted to saying it is doing too much, while more Democrats think government efforts are about right.
In his first months in office, Biden has made significant progress implementing his vision for environmental protection by rolling back several of Trump's environmental policies. While this is reflected in a decline in Democrats' view that too little is being done to protect the environment, they remain less satisfied than they were under Obama. This is likely owed to the fact that it is early in Biden's presidency. By next year, Biden could see more Democrats holding this view.
In the meantime, a majority of Americans, including nine in 10 Democrats, are optimistic that Biden will do a good job protecting the environment. Fewer, though still a majority, think he will improve the nation's energy policy, which is a top-of-mind issue to many Americans following the massive power crisis in Texas in February.
While he has thus far used executive actions to carry out his environmental agenda, Biden cannot singlehandedly enact everything on his environmental agenda. He will need congressional support for some of it, and with a closely divided Senate, that may prove challenging.
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