A Gallup poll issued on April 13th headlines “Americans Choose the Environment Over Energy Development,” and on April 9th another report from Gallup was titled “About Half in U.S. Say Environmental Protection Falls Short.” The bottom-line from both findings is that “the U.S. government” isn’t doing enough to protect the environment but is doing too much to boost energy-production. Republicans feel the exact opposite way, on both matters.
Among the total American public, 48% say that the federal government is doing “too little … in terms of protecting the environment”; 34% say that it’s doing “the right amount”; and only 16% say that it’s doing “too much.” So, clearly, the public greatly favors increased environmental protection by “the U.S. government.” However, whereas 64% of Democrats feel that the government is doing “too little,” only 39% of Republicans do; and so, the partisan divide on this issue is stark.
Similarly, the U.S. general public give higher priority to (49% opt for) “Environment” over (39% opt for) “Development of U.S. energy supplies”; but among Republicans, 62% favor “Development of U.S. energy supplies,” and only 27% favor “Environment.” By contast: 72% of Democrats favor “Environment,” and only 18% favor “Development of U.S. energy supplies.”
Basically, the reason why the overall U.S. public prefers protecting the environment over boosting U.S. energy-production, is that Democrats are more lopsided for protecting the environment than Republicans are lopsided for boosting energy-production.
This partisan divide has always been high, but is now a bit higher than normal. The divide was at its highest during the period from 2004 to 2006. The divide was smaller in 2000 than at any other time during Gallup’s polling on the matter, which started in 2000.
Independents (neither “Democrat” nor “Republican”) have always been closer to Democrats than to Republicans on these issues; and, in 2012 (the last Presidential campaign), Independents were almost identical to Democrats on them.
If, during the 2016 campaign, the Republican candidate fails to moderate his position more toward the environment, the Democratic candidate will have a major vulnerability to exploit against the Republican’s campaign. If the Democrat exploits that advantage, there will be little likelihood that Independents — the crucial voting-segment — will swing Republican that year.
The environment has always been a low-priority concern of American voters, but energy-production is an even lower-priority concern. And that, plus the highly Democratic slant of Independents on those two issues, could turn that low-priority concern into a kingmaker (or queenmaker) in the 2016 campaigns.
Here are Gallup’s four graphs and charts summarizing their findings:
My most complete summary of Gallup’s findings on the partisan political divide was titled “Gallup Poll Finds Democrats More Compassionate; Republicans More Psychopathic.“
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity, and of Feudalism, Fascism, Libertarianism and Economics.