Americans View Obama Better on Environment Than Energy
Politics

Americans View Obama Better on Environment Than Energy

by Andrew Dugan

Opinions on his handling of these two issues tick down in 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- About half of Americans say President Barack Obama is doing a good job of protecting the nation's environment, while fewer -- about four in 10 -- say the president is doing a good job on improving the nation's energy policy or making America prosperous. Americans have rated the president more highly on the environment than on energy or prosperity across the six times Gallup has asked this question.

Trend: Ratings of Barack Obama on the Environment, Prosperity, Energy Policy

These results come from Gallup's annual March Environment survey, conducted March 6-9 this year. Obama's 51% positive rating for protecting the nation's environment is down slightly from the 55% and 56% ratings seen in each of the prior three years. Still, the current rating exceeds the roughly four in 10 who say Obama is doing a good job of making America prosperous or improving the nation's energy policy. Obama's relative strength on the environment may present limited opportunities for him to widen his overall support base, however, as Americans rank environmental concerns among the lowest when compared with other problems facing the nation.

Gallup first measured these dimensions about Obama's job performance in March 2009, when Obama was still in his honeymoon period after having been inaugurated just a couple of months earlier, and when his overall job approval rating was 62%. In that survey, respondents were asked to predict whether Obama would do a good or a poor job in each area as president and gave largely optimistic forecasts. By 2010, just a little over a year into his term, he had lost a great deal of support based on Americans' views of his actual performance.

Nonetheless, Obama is better positioned on these three issues at this point in his presidency than was his predecessor, George W. Bush. In March 2006, during Bush's sixth year in office, a third of the country said he was doing a good job of protecting the environment, while a quarter rated him this way on improving the nation's energy policy and 39% on making America prosperous. These differences partly reflected Bush's lower job approval rating of 37% in March 2006, vs. Obama's 44% in the March 6-9 Environment survey.

Bush began his presidency with lower expectations on these three measures, and over the course of his tenure, his performance on these matters was largely evaluated poorly. An average of 38% of Americans from 2002-2008 gave Bush praise on protecting the environment, compared with 32% on improving the nation's energy policy and 43% on making America prosperous. Currently, Obama's averages since 2010 are higher on two of these issues -- 54% for environmental protection and 43% for improving the nation's energy policy. On making America prosperous, an average of 39% say Obama has done a good job, four points lower than Bush's average during his presidency.

2001-2008 Ratings of George W. Bush on the Environment, Energy Policy, American Prosperity -- % "Good Job"

All Partisan Groups Give Obama Highest Approval on Environment

Across the three major U.S. political groups, Obama receives the highest support on protecting the environment, including 73% of Democrats, 47% of independents, and 32% of Republicans who say he is doing a good job. While support falls somewhat among all three groups on improving the nation's energy policy, it falls much further among independents and self-identified Republicans than among Democrats on making America prosperous. One in three independents (32%) and 12% of Republicans say Obama has done a good job of making America prosperous, vs. 70% of Democrats.

Ratings of Barack Obama on the Environment, Prosperity, Energy Policy by Party, March 2014

Bottom Line

Roughly half of the nation still believes Obama is doing a good job of protecting the nation's environment, notably higher than the percentage saying he is doing a good job of improving the nation's energy policy or making America prosperous. In fact, Obama's stewardship on the environment eclipses his overall approval rating, suggesting this issue is a relative strength for the president. However, given the low level of importance most Americans assign the environment compared with other pressing issues of the day, this advantage may have limited political utility.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 6-9, 2014, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, 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 www.gallup.com.

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