American Voters Place a High Priority On Environmental Protections, Despite Concerns About Energy and the Economy

The American voters place a high priority on strong environmental protections. Americans are unwilling to compromise on existing environmental regulations in spite of uncertainty about energy and the economy in general according to a national survey conducted May 21-23. Voters reject the notion that we must sacrifice a strong economy in order to have a clean environment. When forced to choose, many still favor the environmental position regardless of the economic counter-argument.

Support for environmental protections extends to the energy debate and President Bush's energy plan. A majority say that energy represents a "serious problem, but not a crisis." Bush's approval on both energy and the environment is low with just one-in-three voters giving him credit for a good job on each. Equal numbers support and oppose his energy plan (35 percent apiece), when no specific details are mentioned. When briefly described, Bush's plan still fails to achieve support from a majority of voters, and opposition gains a slight edge (48 percent to 44 percent).

The voting public wants an energy plan that does more than increase production of old fuels - oil and coal - and strongly endorses measures aimed at enhancing conservation, efficiency and the development of newer, cleaner renewable fuels. Large majorities prefer plans that emphasize these qualities.

As demonstrated in previous research and again in this study, issues involving clean air and clean water energize the electorate on the environment. Notably, lowering arsenic levels in drinking water and reducing carbon dioxide emissions garner significant support, even when voters are confronted with economic counter-arguments.

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