April 3, 2013 at 4:15 PM ET
Americans are still prioritizing getting green over going green, but the gap is narrowing.
A new Gallup poll finds that 48 percent of Americans think economic growth should be given priority even if the environment suffers somewhat. In contrast, 43 percent say the environment should get priority even at the risk of curbing economic growth.
The trend toward prioritizing the economy over the environment began in 2008, as the start of the Great Recession. At a high in 2011, 54 percent of Americans were favoring the economic growth over environmental protection.
The trend has since turned somewhat in favor of the environment. But Americans’ attitudes about the environment are still a far cry from what they were in 2000, when two-thirds of Americans thought the environment should take priority over economic growth.
The more recent recession officially ended in July of 2009, but economic growth has been slow. Although new jobs are being created each month, the unemployment rate has remained relatively high and millions of Americans are still out of work. That has left many fretting more about bringing home a paycheck than saving the environment.
The poll of 1,022 Americans, which was conducted in early March, also found that 4 percent thought they should have equal priority while 5 percent had no opinion. The poll had a sampling margin of error of 4 percentage points.
Gallup did find that the issue divided along party lines. Republicans were much more likely to favor economic growth over environmental protection. For the first time since 2008, Democrats polled this year were more likely to favor environmental protection.
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