Entering the New Millennium:

Americans Want More Done to Protect the Environment

As we head into the new millennium, we thought it appropriate to point out that a wide variety of public opinion surveys taken in the past year show that Americans favor tougher environmental standards, particularly for clean air. Surveys from 1999 reveal strong support for stricter environmental statutes, as well as a growing concern with the overall quality of the environment. Here is a summary of key findings, with an attached bibliography.

Potential voters place the environment high on their list of important issues.

  • 92.8% of likely Republican primary voters in California, New Hampshire, Iowa, New York and South Carolina -- five very important states in the presidential race -- said that protecting the environment was very important, according to a poll by Zogby International. 9
  • Over three-quarters of those same Republican primary voters (85%) say that it is important that a candidate be a strong advocate for the environment. 9
  • About two-thirds of those Republicans said that they would vote for an environmentalist candidate over a non-environmentalist candidate. 9

Government can play a large role in protecting the environment.

  • Nearly two-thirds of all adults surveyed in a Council for Excellence in Government poll stated that the government must have a part in cleaning up the environment. Of adult age groups, the 18-34 year old group had the highest percentage with 71%. 5

Americans believe that environmental problems will increase.

  • According to a Washington Post survey, 51% of those asked said that pollution and other environmental problems will get worse by a great amount, up from 44% just three years ago. Only 13% said that pollution and environmental problems would not get worse at all. 8
  • Half of the registered voters polled in an American Lung Association survey said that air pollution and air quality is dirtier today than it was 10 years ago. 2
  • Belief in environmental problems spans nearly every demographic subgroup, also according to the American Lung Association. 2

Not enough is being done to protect the environment.

  • Four of 10 likely Republican primary voters in California, New Hampshire, Iowa, New York and South Carolina said that the government is not doing enough to protect the environment. 9
  • The American Lung Association states that 86% of those polled strongly favor stricter clean air health standards. This support is not limited to one party -- it crosses all demographic boundaries. 2
  • Even among those who think that air quality has improved, three in four said stronger standards should be implemented. 2

Industry, government should care more about the environment.

  • As reported in Roll Call, 74% of those surveyed by the Gallup Poll said that business and industry are not worried enough about the environment. 6
  • 57% said that the government did not care enough about the environment. 6

Tougher clean air standards should be set to protect people's health.

  • 64% of voters think that air pollution regulations should protect children with asthma and senior citizens. Nearly one third (32%) of voters say that regulations should protect the average individual, according to the American Lung Association. 2
  • The Clean Air Network reports that four in five voters are very concerned about air quality and pollution's effects on their health. 4

SUVs, minivans, and diesel trucks should be better regulated.

  • 91% of the public believe that sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and minivans should be required to meet the same pollution standards as passenger cars, according to an ALA survey. 87% of SUV owners and 92% of minivan owners agreed. 1
  • Allowing more pollution from diesel vehicles should not come in return for better gas mileage say 74% of those polled in that same ALA study. 1
  • The Clean Air Trust reported that 83% of respondents overwhelmingly said that diesel passenger vehicles should meet the same standards as gasoline vehicles. 3
  • Nine voters in 10 believe big diesel tractor-trailers should use the best available pollution control equipment. 3
  • By a three-to-one margin, voters favor cleaner diesel fuel for big trucks even when told that will mean higher costs that will be passed on to consumers. 3

Americans want cleaner gasoline.

  • Seven of 10 respondents to an American Lung Association survey said that they would pay 5 cents more per gallon for cleaner gasoline. 1
  • 84% told the American Lung Association that stricter standards for clean gasoline should be in effect all around the country, as opposed to the 4% who agreed with the oil industry's contention that cleaner gasoline is not necessary in the West, with the exception of California, because the air is clean enough. 1

Democrats are doing more to protect the environment.

  • 54% of adults polled stated that Democrats are more active in helping the environment, compared to 25% for Republicans, according to a New York Times/CBS News survey. 7

More Americans trust the EPA to set air quality standards over Congress.

  • Over three-quarters of voters trust the EPA to set health based air quality guidelines. Only half trust Congress to do the same. 2
  • However, more voters put their trust in the American Lung Association when dealing with information on air pollution. 90% of voters trust the ALA compared to 79% for the EPA. 2
  • Voters are not likely to trust the oil, trucking or auto industries with respect to standards or information. Only one third trust these industries to set good standards while between a third and a half trust them to give factual information. 2


1. American Lung Association, Americans Support National Clean Gasoline Standards, Tough Controls on SUVs, Diesel Vehicles, January 1999

2. American Lung Association, Research Findings on Health Standards, June 1999

3. Clean Air Trust, Public Wants Dirty Diesel Trucks Cleaned Up, Supports Technology, Cleaner Diesel Fuel, June 1999

4. Clean Air Network, A Nationwide Survey, September 1999

5. Council of Excellence in Government, America Unplugged: Citizens and their Government, July 1999

6. Gallup Poll, reported in Roll Call, July 1999

7. New York Times/CBS News Poll, How the Parties are Viewed, November 1999

8. Washington Post Poll, The Nation's Worries, November 1999

9. Zogby International for National Environmental Trust, A Poll of Likely Republican Primary or Caucus Voters in California, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, and South Carolina, August 1999