Regardless of their political beliefs, most Americans believe the government isn't doing enough to protect the environment.
According to a new study published by the Pew Research Center, Americans really aren't happy with the way the government is handling the environment. Interestingly, this is one of the few aspects on which people from various points on the political spectrum can agree. According to the results:
- 69% of Americans say the federal government isn't doing enough to protect water quality of lakes, rivers, and streams.
- 64% say the same about air quality.
- 67% say the government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change.
However, beyond this, the political divide really starts to kick in. For instance, three-quarters of Republicans (74%, including independents who lean to the Republican Party) believe it's possible to cut down on regulations while still effectively protecting water quality -- while Democrats tend to believe this is not really the case. Also, while a majority of both political parties favor the development of wind and solar energy, the divide over fossil fuels remains vast. Even so, fewer Americans than ever support expanding hydraulic fracturing (39%), offshore oil and gas drilling (39%) or coal mining (37%).
The two groups also can't agree on whether or not the Earth is warming up, and whether or not measures should be taken to tackle climate change. A majority of 72% of Republicans say these policies either make no difference or do more harm than good, whereas 66% of Democrats and leaners think such policies help the environment, and most see economic benefits to them.
"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," says Cary Funk, director of science and society research and lead author of this report. "Republicans and Democrats are largely at odds over how much regulation is needed to safeguard the environment and reduce the effects of climate change."
In terms of accepting and dealing with climate change, 17% of Americans say there's no solid evidence the Earth is getting warmer at all, while 29% say it is due to natural patterns -- two views strongly contradicted by clear scientific evidence. Just over half of the country's population (53%) believes the planet is getting warmer due to human activity. Again, there was a clear divide across the political board, with Democrats being three times more likely to believe this is the case than Republicans. Although only 53% of Americans believe in man-made global warming, 59% say climate change is having at least some effect on their local community.
All in all, this paints a complex and worrying picture. There seems to be a great rift between the American people and ironically, the one thing most people seem to agree on is that the government isn't doing enough.