March 31st, 2010
11:35 AM ET
5 years ago

CNN Poll: Economy tops environment as bigger concern

The recession and concerns about the economy have dampened public enthusiasm for policies to protect the environment, a new national poll indicates.
The recession and concerns about the economy have dampened public enthusiasm for policies to protect the environment, a new national poll indicates.

Washington (CNN) – The recession and concerns about the economy have dampened public enthusiasm for policies to protect the environment, a new national poll indicates.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, 51 percent of Americans say that economic growth should be a higher priority than protecting the environment, even if the environment suffers to some extent, with 45 percent saying that protecting the environment tops the economy, even at the risk of curbing economic growth.

Full results (PDF)

The poll, which was released Wednesday, indicates that attitudes on the issue have changed over the past few years. The 51 percent who say the economy is a higher priority than the environment is up from 37 percent who felt that way in 2006 before the start of the current recession. The 45 percent who now rank the environment as the top concern represents a seven point drop from 2006.

Older and younger Americans apparently don't see eye to eye on the issue. Fifty-eight percent of people 50 years of age and older questioned in the poll say that the economy should be the top priority, with 37 percent saying that the environment is more important. Among those 18 to 49 years old, just over half say that protecting the environment is most important and 47 percent say the economy is most important.

"Most Americans under 50 years old choose the environment; most older Americans pick the economy," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Not surprisingly, there is a partisan gap as well, with most Democrats giving the environment the top spot while 56 percent of Independents and seven out of ten Republicans choose the economy."

The survey's release comes as President Barack Obama unveiled plans to open large swaths of U.S. coastal waters in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas drilling - a move that could please the energy industry but upset the administration's environmental supporters.

According to the poll, 43 percent say that current environmental laws should go further, but just over one in four say they are adequate as they are and nearly three in ten say they go too far.

"Barack Obama gets one of his highest marks on the environment, with 55 percent saying they approve of how he has handled environmental policy," adds Holland. "But only two percent say that energy and the environment will be the most important issues affecting their vote this year - dead last among the seven issues tested."

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted March 19-21, with 1,030 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn


Filed under: CNN poll • Economy
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. David

    I am not a tree lover, but the environment is important. People live in the now, not the future that may not be. Lets try a different approach. The government imposes a law that for every percent the economy grows 100 Americans are executed on live TV for that growth. Lets have the results of our action seen today. Live TV executions for that better paying job, just to see growth in the economy.

    March 31, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  2. Angus McDugan

    That is incorrect!!!!!

    Obama's and the Dem's biggest concern is ObamaCare not jobs and the economy. That is the concern of Americans not Obama.

    March 31, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  3. Eddie

    Hey Dums......I mean Dems......we do not have the money to spend you guys are tossing around! STOP THE SPENDING! And all you who are hanging on to some entitlement......get a JOB!

    March 31, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  4. Debby

    Obama doesn't have a clue about the economy so he pushs for more taxpayer money through Obamacare and now the environment. I am laughing at CNN's Ohio poll that Dems. are gaining. People are losing jobs left and right in this state and the poll says Dems. are gaining. LOL Yeah right CNN.

    March 31, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  5. notfooledbydistractions

    Yeah, and in the next election, this doofus nation is likely to elect more of the same party that brought us to this debacle. Never underestimate the stupidity of the american voter.

    March 31, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  6. inofritzn

    Duh, and the morons that think think the environment is more of a concern are probably the reason our economy is so poor.

    March 31, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  7. Fitz in Texas

    Dang, I just bet old Al Gore is upset with this CNN poll. After all he's already made $700 MILLION off this climate change hoax. I'm sure he was hoping for another $700 MILLION.

    March 31, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  8. Liz

    Don't people realize if the environment goes south, it takes the economy, AND US, with it? climate change is happening now. it's in our faces every day. anyone who denies its existence is bat-crap-crazy! we have a limited window of time to take action to mitigate its worst effects. if we fail to act, we're screwed six ways to sunday. why is this so hard for people to understand? oh, right, Faux Noise says it's a hoax and we know how right they are about everything. ; /

    March 31, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  9. phoenix86

    The economy also topped ObamaCare, but that didn't stop the fringe-left onslaught from socializing the US medical system.

    March 31, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  10. stop the nonsense

    If Americans and Congress began focusing on the environment, they might find we had a plce for new job creation.
    As Americans cut back on frivolis spending and save more there will be a natural decline in the basic jobs we are used to. to create new jobs, we need to create or expand existing industries that can take us into the future!

    March 31, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  11. tea party=no social security

    Why aren't we hearing about that Larry King interview where two of the Tea Party leaders said that they want to do away with Social Security???

    This is big news.

    March 31, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  12. BeverlyNC

    Of course the economy and jobs are the most important thing on the forefront of the American people.
    Thank goodness President Obama has been an incredible leader to save what was left of our economy and now has turned it around. It took Bush 8 years to destroy it so it is not going to instantly recover. However, President Obama had made smart and successful moves.

    -He saved the banks – who now have paid us back with interest.
    -He saved car companies and tens of thousands of jobs – now those companies are profitable again and have paid us back.
    -He gave out stimulus money to the states who have used it to save jobs and to even hire more teachers, policemen, and make critical infrastructure repairs
    -He signed a JOBS bill into law which will incent businesses to hire more new workers
    -He overcame Republican lies and passed a terrific healthcare bill that will instantly save working families money and give them protection from abusive insurance companies.
    -Economic indicators are all back in the positive and the stock market is at its highest level in years.

    That's just what he did for the ECONOMY. Shall we also talk about how much safer we now are because he reversed the hate other countries had for America, opened up new diplomatic channels, is having tremendous success in Afghanistan, got an powerful arms agreement with Russia, and oh – the Nobel Prize for his efforts.

    The list goes on and on. President Obama and the Democratic Party have DELIVERED for us and worked hard to bring people-oriented relief and laws to us.

    What have Republicans done to help America? NOTHING and their plan for the future (according to McCain) is to do NOTHING and OPPOSE EVERYTHING President Obama tries to accomplish for you and I. How patriotic and "country-first"! Republicans are no friend of the People and have betrayed us over and over. it's time to remove these traitors and do-nothings from office in November so we can keep moving America forward to more recovery.

    March 31, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  13. Cal

    Goes to show you when things are good like during Bush, people worry about silly things, next will be global cooling. Maybe we will have to polute more to bring the temperature down, lol.

    March 31, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  14. I voted for Obama and proud of it in Oregon

    THE REPUBLICANS ARE KICKING THEMSELVES IN THE BUTT
    now with oil and gas drilling to move forward . and it is safe .I worked in the field for over 35 years and modern technology is great

    and the Tea Party is bedside themselves . the hate keeps on coming from the party of NO

    they are a joke and America is seeing it every day . so as the Tea Party Bus goes across the country and the groupies follow to show support and fewer people come out to jump up and down with these Waco's by the way they only show up in the heavily republican districts and still don't get much response

    March 31, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  15. BOB

    Obama campaigned on Clean Coal and Safe Nuclear. He made it very clear a month into office that he would do NOTHING to promote either Industry. He lies to sell everything. Three days after his HealthKill Bill passed....he announced in a speech that this was just "the first step to Universal Healthcare". He hadn't admitted to that once in the previous year while trying to sell the "first step". Conservatives knew

    March 31, 2010 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  16. Mark

    Of course coastal drilling will make sense now huh?

    Our media has reached an all time failure.

    March 31, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  17. jeff jackson, alabama

    People who work for a living will
    almost always put the economy
    first. Where's the mystery in this ?

    March 31, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
1 2