Polls: Water, Warming, Travel, Youth and Green Guilt

WASHINGTON, DC, April 23, 2007 (ENS) - Earth Day is a trigger for all kinds of public opinion polls on the environment. In recent weeks, Americans have had their attitudes surveyed on everything from water pollution to global warming, from recycling to travel. Here we survey the pollsters to find out what Americans really think about protecting the planet.

Gallup Poll: Americans Worry More About Water Than Warming

The American public is most worried about polluted drinking water, although concerns about global warming concerns have grown over the past two years, and are now at their highest level ever, according to the most recent nationwide Gallup poll on attitudes towards the environment.

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,009 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 11-14. Pollsters asked people if they personally worry a great deal, a fair amount, only a little, or not at all about 10 environmental problems.

The purity of drinking water tops the environmental wish list for many Americans. (Photo credit unknown)
A majority of those polled say they worry "a great deal" about four different environment problems involving water - 58 percent are concerned about pollution of drinking water; 53 percent worry about pollution of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs; 52 percent are concerned about contamination of soil and water by toxic waste; and 51 percent worry about the maintenance of the nation's supply of fresh water for household needs.

At least four in 10 respondents say they worry a great deal about air pollution (46 percent), damage to the earth's ozone layer (43 percent), the loss of tropical rain forests (43 percent), and global warming (41 percent).

Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed worry about the extinction of plant and animal species. Only 25 percent of Americans worry a great deal about acid rain.

Analyzing the poll results, Gallup's Joseph Carroll says, "Overall, Americans' concern about global warming has not generally shown much fluctuation since Gallup first asked the question in 1989. Still, concerns about global warming are up slightly this year and are at their highest level recorded by Gallup, albeit by only one percentage point."

In 1989, roughly one in three Americans worried a great deal about global warming. This sentiment decreased in the mid-1990s, falling to as low as 24 percent in 1997. Then, concerns gradually increased over the next few years, reaching 40 percent in 2000 before dropping again during the earlier part of this decade.

But, worry has been on the rise again in the past two years, with about four in 10 Americans expressing a great deal of worry about the issue.

The poll found that Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to express concern about all of these environmental problems.

Youthography Poll: Government Should Do More for Environment

Youthography, which focuses on polling North America's young people, found that 58.7 percent of Americans polled aged 14-29 believe that "the government should be doing more to protect the environment."

In Youthography's latest national Ping survey of more than 1,900 Americans aged 9-29, close to 75 percent said they believe the world will be more polluted in 25 years.

"Younger generations have grown up with recycling and the notion of being green, and they're experiencing the most dramatic effects of global warming we've seen," said Youthography Chief Strategic Officer Mike Farrell.

"That, coupled with the fact that they feel the government has not taken a leadership role on the environment has left them with a feeling of 'we need to do this, it's our future at stake.' This has brought many of them together, and they are starting to show some momentum as a powerful force. However, these attitudes have not reached a mainstream tipping point in terms of real effects on their actual behavior - yet," Farrell said.

Young people want the government to do more to ensure environmental protection. (Photo courtesy Allen County, Indiana)
Among those between 9-13, 68.8 percent of female participants gave top importance to "taking care of the environment," while 54.7 percent for males gave the issue top importance.

Of the 14-29 year-olds, the concept of "being environmentally friendly" was rated of top importance by 54.5 percent females and 46.9 percent males.

While more than 90 percent of youth indicate a social cause is important to them, when making purchasing decisions, few are considering whether products are organic, or packaged with recycled materials.

Only 20 percent are worried about how the products they purchase are made and the impact that could have on the Earth.

When shopping, 27.3 percent of 14-29 year olds try to reduce the amount of items with packaging always or most of the time.

When it comes to recycling, all age groups are taking a more active part with close to half of young Americans polled "always" or "almost always" recycling newspapers, cans, bottles and plastics.

The Green Guilt Poll

The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation, RBRC, a nonprofit organization focused on rechargeable battery and cell phone recycling, commissioned a public opinion poll to find out where the environmental guilt lies in America.

The survey, which was conducted by GFK Custom Research on behalf of RBRC, reveals that 20 percent of Americans suffer from "green guilt," and many more admit to less-than-perfect recycling habits.

In fact, only about 52 percent of respondents recycle their glass and cardboard, while roughly 60 percent recycle their newspapers.

About one in every three of those surveyed recycle their used rechargeable batteries and old cell phones, while 14 percent of Americans admitted to not recycling anything at all.

Those who identified themselves as "recyclers" say that the main reason they recycle is to help preserve the environment.

The 43 percent who do not recycle all recyclable items are unclear about their local recycling laws and recycling locations, while 34 percent of Americans feel that it takes too much effort to separate their trash.

Discarded cell phones are often tossed in the trash. (Photo courtesy Battery Recycling)
Of those polled, 43 percent doubt that their individual actions will have any impact on the future of the environment.

"We actually found the results of the survey encouraging since most Americans are at least recycling something and just need the proper resources and guidance to help them do more for the environment," said Ralph Millard, RBRC executive vice president. "RBRC's Call2Recycle program can help them do just that since it is a free and convenient solution for individuals to recycle their used rechargeable batteries and old cell phones."

Cell phones collected through the Call2Recycle program will be recycled or refurbished and resold when possible with a portion of the proceeds benefiting select charities.

The survey aimed to identify the one thing that could most easily be incorporated into consumers' lifestyles in order to protect the environment. One in four respondents felt that they could easily turn off their air conditioning or heat when not at home, while 19 percent said that they could unplug appliances that are not in use.

Nearly 15 percent felt that the easiest habit to adopt would be recycling their used rechargeable batteries and old cell phones, whereas roughly 12 percent would rather bring a coffee mug to their local coffee shop, instead of using paper or Styrofoam cups.

But just as some habits are easy to adopt, others are hard to break. Nearly one-quarter of those surveyed admitted that they could never switch to cloth diapers from disposables, nor would they ever buy a hybrid car.

Who Cares? Care2 Poll Takes Pulse of Conscious Consumers

Care2, an online community of environmentally conscious consumers, polled 800 members of its six million member community to gauge perceptions and misperceptions on global warming and green living and how they affect political views and actions.

This poll found that 76 percent are adopting green living practices for both health and environmental reasons. Eighty-four percent are most interested in greening their homes, while 71 percent want to green their cars, and 61 percent want to green their offices.

Nearly half of those polled (48 percent) said cost is the main obstacle that keeps them from going green, while 35 percent said lack of knowledge about alternatives is an obstacle.

This home is falling into Washington's Skyomish River as the bank erodes away after flooding last November. Extreme weather events are linked to global warming. (Photo by Marvin Nauman courtesy FEMA)
Care2 found that for 88 percent of respondents global warming is a "very significant" issue, and 78 percent think they might be able to change the course of global warming.

Sixty-one percent of those polled think global warming will affect them and their families in a variety of ways, from weather and climate changes to diseases.

The pollsters found that 79 percent of those questioned said that global warming will affect their 2008 presidential votes.

The Green Party and Democrats were viewed as doing the best job of making global warming policy a priority. Democratic candidates most likely to make a difference on global warming are Barack Obama (26 percent), Hillary Clinton (24 percent) and John Edwards (20 percent), the survey found.

Care2 has launched the Internet"s first click-to-donate race to stop global warming. Visit the site http://stopglobalwarming.care2.com and click on one button, and Care2 will make a donation to pay for the removal of one pound of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Orbitz Poll: Majority Will Pay More for Eco-friendly Travel

A new survey by the online travel company Orbitz found that travelers are reassessing how they travel, where they stay and the impact they leave behind when on vacation.

The Orbitz poll was conducted online using MarketTool's Zommerang panel of 320 adults ages 19-65, who are regular travelers.

Solar panels on the roof of the Makai Inn in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii (Photo courtesy Provision Technologies)
Over two-thirds (67 percent) of those polled placed importance on the eco-friendliness of a destination, and 65 percent said it would somewhat impact their decision to stay at a hotel if they knew the hotel was using solar or wind energy to supplement the powering of the building.

A strong majority (63 percent) said they would pay a little more to rent a hybrid vehicle or stay at a green hotel.

More than half (52 percent) of Americans polled said they would be willing to donate a small portion of their vacation budget to help save the environment when booking a trip.

Although great strides have been made regarding eco-travel awareness,

Many of those polled said that destinations in the United States could be doing a better job when it comes to working to protect the environment. More than half believe that the tourism industry in the United States is not environmentally friendly.

"As a responsible global business within the tourism industry, Orbitz is working to provide its customers with more eco-friendly travel information and choices," said Heather Leisman, senior director of merchandising for Orbitz. "Orbitz encourages our customers increase their awareness and consideration of the planet - whether sea kayaking in Alaska or cleaning up a beach in Key West."