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Look Back | Americans Less Concerned about Environment

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Editor’s note: This article first appeared on April 23, 2002. The news article reports on a Gallup annual survey finding that 35 percent of U.S. adults expressed “a great deal” of worry about the environment. By comparison, Gallup’s 2018 survey found that 42 percent of respondents had “a great deal” of concern about the quality of the environment. It is republished today as a means of comparing attitudes then and now.

With Earth Day 2002 festivities over, a look at Americans’ feelings about the environment reveals that fewer are concerned this year than last.

According to Gallup’s annual survey on the environment, concern over the environment has given way to concerns about crime, homelessness, drugs and other issues.

In March 2001, 42% of Americans said they worried “a great deal” about the quality of the environment. The 2002 numbers revealed a drop to 35%.

In the same time period, those who said they had little or no concern about the environment increased from 22% to 33%.

However, 51% of Americans said they were “sympathetic” to the environmental movement.

According to the poll, Americans were more concerned about the future environment, not the present environment.

When asked to name the most important problem facing the United States today, a mere 2% chose the environment.

However, when asked what the leading problem will be in 25 years, 10% chimed in for the environment.

Most Americans (58%) said they believed “some” actions needed to be taken to safeguard the environment, while 26% said immediate and drastic action is necessary to preserve the environment.

What outranks the environment when it comes to problems facing the United States today?

Terrorism (22%); economy (18%), fear of war (12%); unemployment/jobs (8%); education and ethics/morals (both 7%); national security and health care (both 6%); poverty/homelessness and dissatisfaction with government/politics (both 4%) and drugs (3%).

In 25 years, the environment ranks second on the list of problems facing America, following the economy.