Conserving Energy Is Americans' Top Environmental Action

by Lydia Saad

Americans should use less fuel; government should address global warming

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup recently asked Americans to specify what the government and the American public can each do to address environmental problems. From the results, it appears the impact of human activities on global warming dominates Americans' environmental thinking.

The Public's Environmental Assignment

According to the Feb. 22-25, 2007, Gallup Panel survey, Americans suggest their fellow citizens can be better stewards of the environment by conserving more, recycling more, and polluting less. But of these, cutting down on energy consumption is by far the largest category of responses. This includes using more energy-efficient products (18%), buying smaller or more fuel-efficient cars (13%), and driving less (10%).

And what are the one or two most important things the average American should do in order to address environmental problems? [OPEN-ENDED]

 

 

2007 Feb 22-25

 

%

Reduce Energy Consumption

 

Use energy efficient products

18

Buy smaller/more fuel efficient cars/hybrids

13

Drive less/make fewer car trips

10

Keep car tuned up/use cleaner gas to cut down on fuel emissions

4

Carpool more often

3

Use alternative fuels/Promote their use

3

Utilize public transportation more often

3

Develop a greater awareness of global warming

1

   

Reduce/Reuse/Recycle

 

Do more to recycle/reuse/promote recycling

30

Conserve more/waste less

16

Conserve water/help to keep it cleaner

2

   

Political Action

 

Elect politicians that care about environmental issues

5

Donate to environmental organizations

1

   

Other

 

Don't litter/clean up yard

9

Be more knowledgeable about the environment

4

Avoid doing things that pollute the air/reduce air quality

3

Follow environmental rules and regulations in place

1

Note: Total percentage may be more than 100% due to multiple responses.

Only a handful of Americans believe encouraging people to take political action (either by contacting a politician or donating to an environmental group) is a high-priority strategy. Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to espouse one of these options (8% vs. 1%).

Recycle, Reduce, Reuse?

"Reduce, reuse, recycle" is a familiar environmental refrain and constitutes the "3 Rs" of the waste management hierarchy touted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and others. According to this, reduction in the use of resources is the most desirable solution to minimizing waste, followed by reusing products and resources, and then by recycling.

Americans, on the other hand, seem to have this in reverse. Of the three strategies, the most widely mentioned is recycling, named by 30% of Americans. The general dictums to "conserve more" or "waste less" are mentioned by a much smaller number (16%).

The Government's Assignment

Recommendations for what the government should do to help the environment also center on energy-related issues. More than half of Americans offer at least one such suggestion, including developing alternative fuel sources (19%), addressing global warming (16%), imposing stricter standards on fuel emissions (10%), and setting tougher fuel standards for autos (6%).

Secondarily, about a third of Americans think the government should strengthen environmental protection laws and their enforcement (not specific to global warming), including by setting higher standards on clean water, holding industrial organizations accountable for pollution, and passing stronger laws for protection of natural resources.

Additionally, a sizable segment of Americans think the government should use incentives to achieve environmental progress. This includes 10% who say the government should "encourage conservation," 3% who say the government should offer more financial incentives for environmentally conscious actions, and 3% who call for more public education on the environment.

In your view, what are the one or two most important things the government should do in order to address environmental problems? [OPEN-ENDED]

 

 

2007 Feb 22-25

%

Reduce Use of Fossil Fuels/Focus on global warming

More research to find alternative energy sources/fuels

19

Acknowledge and address global warming concerns

16

Impose stricter standards over fuel emissions/greenhouse gases

10

Set tougher standards for auto makers on fuel efficiency, hybrid cars

6

Encourage less dependency on foreign oil

3

Encourage reduction in energy use/support energy efficient products

2

Encourage greater use of public transportation/help make it available

1

   

Strengthen Other Environmental Laws/Enforcement

 

Greater enforcement of existing environmental laws/regulations

9

More control over pollution/fines for littering

7

Set higher standards on clean water/water conservation

6

Hold industrial organizations accountable for their pollution

5

Impose stronger laws for the protection of natural resources

5

Encourage/enforce laws on recycling

3

Work together with rest of the world on environmental treaties

2

   

Incentives/Education

 

Encourage conservation/less waste

10

Offer more financial incentives for being environmentally conscious

3

Educate the public on how to improve the environment

3

   

Other

4

Nothing

4

No opinion

12

Note: Total percentage may be more than 100% due to multiple responses.

Democrats and Republicans are about equally likely to suggest that the government should initiate more research to find alternative energy sources (20% and 21%, respectively). However, Democrats are about twice as likely as Republicans (23% vs. 11%) to say the government should acknowledge and address global warming, specifically.

Survey Methods

Results for this panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,018 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 22-25, 2007. Respondents were randomly drawn from Gallup's nationally representative household panel, which was originally recruited through random selection methods. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 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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