A majority of Americans agree that the government could do more to protect the environment, but there is still strong disagreement about the use of regulations and fossil fuels.
A study conducted by the Pew Research Center and released Monday shows where Americans across the political spectrum stand when it comes to battling climate change. In a nationwide survey of U.S. adults, 69 percent of respondents said the federal government is doing too little to protect the water quality of rivers, lakes and streams. Sixty-four percent believed the same when it came to air quality. More generally, 67 percent said the government is not doing enough to mitigate the environmental effects of climate change.
However, there is a sharp divide between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to how to better protect the environment. (RELATED: Study: Environmentalists Act Like They’ve Got A License To Pollute)
Nearly three-quarters of Republicans — including independents who lean GOP — believe it is possible to simultaneously cut regulations while protecting water and air quality. However, 64 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents believe it is impossible to do those two things at the same time.
Republicans and Democrats both support increasing the U.S. renewable energy sector, but there is a sharp divide when it comes to the fossil fuel industry. Sixty percent or more of Republicans support energy extraction methods such as offshore drilling, coal mining and increased fracking. Democratic support for such measures, on the other hand, sits below 30 percent.
Members of the two political parties are also divided on the effectiveness of climate change policies and their effect on the economy. Seventy-two percent of Republicans and Republican leaners believe such polices either do more harm than good or make no difference at all. Additionally, 57 percent of Republicans and GOP leaners said these policies damage the American economy. A majority of Democratic voters, on the other hand, believe such policies help and the environment and do not hurt the economy.
“While majorities of Americans believe the government isn’t doing enough to protect the environment and reduce the effects of climate change, about half of conservative Republicans see the government as doing about the right amount to protect air and water quality,” said Cary Funk in a Monday statement included in the study. Funk served as a lead author of the study. “Republicans and Democrats are largely at odds over how much regulation is needed to safeguard the environment and reduce the effects of climate change.”
The survey polled 2, 541 U.S. adults was conducted between March 27 and April 9.
In another study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology in April, University of Michigan psychology graduate student Michael Hall found seemingly contradictory behavior among people with varying degrees of concern for the environment. Americans who support climate change policies, Hall found, were less likely to adopt environmentally-friendly habits compared to those less concerned with the issue.
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