It would appear Americans are victims of the false choice between the economy and the environment. As the economy was ravaged by the recession, polls indicate that American support for climate change declined.
Over the last couple of years, when Gallup asks Americans about top problems facing the county, the economy is always at or near the top of the list, while environment is rarely among the top five concerns.
According to a May 2011 Yale Survey titled Public Support for Climate and Energy Policies.When compared to 2008, public support for efforts to combat climate change waned in 2009 and 2010.
This finding confirmed an April 2011 study from Brookings which compared American and Canadian views on climate change. The study found that American belief in climate change declined in lock step with the shrinking economy between 2008 and 2010.
During the same period, Canadians support for efforts to combat climate change did not erode as much as Americans. The fact that the recession did not hit Canada as hard as it hit America is consistent with the hypothesis that economic difficulties trump environmental concerns.
Predictably, Republicans are much more likely then either Democrats or Independents, to choose the economy over the environment.
Thanks in part to Republican misinformation, popular support for the issue of combating global warming has languished over the last couple of years. However, as we emerge from recession the Yale Survey indicates that a small but increasing number of Americans now believe that tackling climate change should be a national priority.
© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.