World

Beijing Residents Notice Improvement in Air Quality

by Cynthia English

A majority of Beijing residents still consider air quality a serious problem

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Chinese authorities have been working for years to improve air quality in Beijing ahead of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, and Beijing residents are noticing. Two-thirds of Beijing respondents (66%) say the problem of air pollution has improved in recent years, up significantly from 53% in 2006.

Some Olympic athletes have cited concerns about air quality as a reason for possibly skipping some or all Olympic events they would normally compete in this summer. Although the International Olympic Committee's top medical official, Arne Ljungqvist, admitted that pollution could affect athletes' performance in some cases, he said the pollution levels posed no serious danger to them. A majority of Beijing residents (57%) surveyed in October 2007 say air pollution is a "very serious" or "somewhat serious" problem, a perception not statistically different from 2006.

The views of Chinese citizens nationwide do differ from the views of those who live in Beijing. Only one in five Chinese citizens overall (22%) share the view that air pollution is a very or somewhat serious problem in the area they live in, and only a third (35%) say the problem has improved in recent years.

In an attempt to meet World Health Organization standards for air pollution and to live up to promises of a "Green Olympics," Beijing implemented new car emission standards on March 1 that now match those currently used in the European Union. With only a few months left before the Olympics begin, Chinese authorities hope their efforts to reduce air pollution in Beijing will prove successful.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 3,730 adults in October 2006 and 4,175 adults in October 2007, aged 15 and older, in China. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 422 adults in October 2006 and 363 in adults October 2007, aged 15 and older, in Beijing. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 to ±6 percentage points.

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.

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