Environmentalism

Less than Half of Americans Identify as "Environmentalists," Says New Poll

Fearmongering seems to be backfiring

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EndIsNearDreamstimeAlainLacroix
Dreamstime: Alain Lacroix

The folks over at the Gallup Poll have been occasionally asking Americans about their views on environmental issues for a couple of decades now. Their latest poll finds that environmentalist fervor among Americans has been abating. From Gallup:

As Americans observe Earth Day, Gallup finds 42% of Americans identifying themselves as environmentalists, down from an average of 76% in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

The results are based on Gallup's annual Environment poll, conducted March 2-6. When last asked, in 2000, 47% of Americans identified as environmentalists, which in turn was down from 63% in 1995. In 1991—one year after Earth Day became a global event celebrated each April 22—a high of 78% of Americans described themselves that way.

One reason for the decline is that the environment has become politicized as an issue, especially in terms of the debate over climate change and how to address it. In 1991, the same high percentage of Republicans and Democrats—78%—considered themselves environmentalists. Today, 27% of Republicans think of themselves that way, compared with 56% of Democrats, a partisan gap of 29 percentage points.

GallupEnviro2016
Gallup

Consistent with their drop in identification as environmentalists, Americans express less concern about certain environmental problems now than in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but that varies by the problem. Americans are much less concerned now than they were a generation ago about air pollution and pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Their concern about polluted drinking water is down slightly, while they are slightly more concerned about global warming or climate change than in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, on a relative basis, global warming is still of less concern than most of the other problems.

GallupEnviroProblems2016
Gallup

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  1. Well, good news is rare but not extinct.

  2. Well, this is what happens when you try to shove stuff down peoples throat and also tell them you’re going to tax them into oblivion and make energy costs ‘necessarily skyrocket’. People are all in on something until you tell them it’s going to cost THEM money.

  3. Makes sense. The air and water pollution things actually have gotten a lot better. And the environmentalist brand has been ruined by the watermelons. I probably would have called myself an environmentalist in the 90s. Now, not so much.

    1. yeh, this.

      Rivers are cleaner, air is cleaner, cities are cleaner, forested acreage is increasing, beaches are cleaner, wildlife is expanding.
      Most recycle, almost everything has fuel/energy efficient options.

      Kinda difficult to convince people to get worked up over something that has been so obviously improving year after year.

  4. It’s the same thing that happened with the words “feminism” and “conservative” – the people who most vocally identify with each group have gone completely nuts and ruined the brand.

    Once upon a time the overwhelming majority of Americans self-identified as conservative, most women self-identified as feminists, and most Americans called themselves environmentalists. Then those various movements went bugfuck crazy and things changed.

    1. Feminists have gotten taken over by their fringe extremists.

      But on “conservatives”, are you really sure they are the ones that went bugfuck crazy? I seem to recall the conservatives back in the early 80s were far more fringy and nuts. Since Reagan, conservatives have moderated drastically. I think its the rhetoric of the left that has painted conservatives as bugfuck crazy and has little to do with reality.

      1. SoCons ruined the conservative brand in a lot of people’s eyes. I’m not sure if they really went crazy or just freaked out too much when the rest of the culture changed.

        1. I am just not seeing it.

          The SoCons of my youth were ranting about the satanic messages in music, D&D, and the moral decline seen in tight jeans and public hand-holding.

          Compared to that, Conservatives over the last 10-15 years are downright bland.

          What I see, is that conservatives get offended at re-writing ‘marriage’ and the left screams that they are re-opening Auswitz.
          Conservatives put forth a bill that bans extreme late-term abortions and the left screams that they want women to have backally abortions or spend their lives bare-foot and pregnant.

          What have the SoCons done in the last couple decades that is “bugfuck crazy”? I just can’t think of anything. Sure, there are a lot of policy issues, but as “bugfuck crazy” as the feminists or the environmentalists? Not even in the same ballpark.

          1. I think it was the neocons who damaged the conservative label. They tried to turn the political movement of small government and States rights into the movement for empire.

          2. What have the SoCons done in the last couple decades that is “bugfuck crazy”?

            DOMA has, in pretty much every way, demonstrated that it was pretty crazy.

            1. Fair enough. Perhaps I’m just stuck on differing extents of “bugfuck crazy”.

              I would give feminists a 10, environmentalists a 9, progs at least a 7, and conservatives a 4 on the “bugfuck crazy” scale.

              In my youth that was opposite…..SoCons were a raging 10 and I just see lots of moderation these days while those on the left are now driving the crazy-train.

            2. DOMA has, in pretty much every way, demonstrated that it was pretty crazy.

              I have a hard time calling people who support a bipartisan position from a few years ago, and a universal definition that goes back centuries if not millenia, “bugfuck crazy”.

              I think gay people ought to be able to get married if they want, but I don’t think that people who disagree with me on that are evil or crazy. Sorry, not buying the proggy/SJW line on this one, either.

          3. There are a few idiots that say something stupid about women or gays and it gives the rest of them a bad name. Sure, the media helps with that.

            Maybe most SoCons aren’t going crazy, but much of the rest of the culture is moving in the opposite direction, and the louder the SoCons complain about it, the more it drives people away.

          4. The SoCons of my youth were ranting about the satanic messages in music, D&D, and the moral decline seen in tight jeans and public hand-holding.

            Well, those people still exist, but they are definitely way more on the fringe.

    2. Reminds me of the time a conservative told me that he wants to create a new country where everyone is free to do as they please as long as they’re not hurting anyone else. So I said, yeah libertarians could get on board with that. Then he said ‘but no people with tattoos or pot heads ‘. Umm, yeah, ok.

      1. Conservatives are all about freedom as long as you ask permission first, and then obey orders. Because how else can you know you’re free unless someone gave you permission and then told you what to do and how to do it?

    3. Then those various movements went bugfuck crazy and things changed.

      I remember thinking the internet was going to be an uncontrolled force of good for all of society too.

  5. Well, given that nearly 50% identify as environmentalists, it compares interestingly with fact that only 19% identify as libertarian. Safe to conclude there are more environmentalists than there are libertarians. Maybe we’re living in an environmentalist moment.

    https://reason.com/blog/2015/04…..as-liberta

    1. What degree of ‘identify as’ do you attribute to social signaling?

      1. I realized some time ago that I’m not separate from nature just because I have a primate brain – an upper brain – because underneath the primate brain, there’s a mammalian brain, and beneath the mammalian brain, there’s a reptilian brain; and it’s those two lower brains that made the upper brain possible in the first place. Here’s the way it works: The primate brain says, “Give peace a chance.” The mammalian brain says, “Give peace a chance, but first let’s kill this motherfucker.” And the reptilian brain says, “Let’s just kill the motherfucker, go to the peace rally and get laid.”

        — George Carlin

    2. 19% identify as libertarian? Wow, I thought it was way lower than that.

      1. I would think it’s accurate if it would be stated ‘identify as or libertarian or lean libertarian’. I can believe that. As far as ‘are’ libertarian, probably less than 10%.

      2. I doubt 19% even know what “libertarian” means

        1. Probably correct.

    3. Safe to conclude there are more environmentalists than there are libertarians. Maybe we’re living in an environmentalist moment.

      oh dude, that reminds me. San Francisco is now reviewing its own environmentalist moment:

      Some highlights:

      While initially touted by The City as the greenest office building in North America, new analysis shows some of the celebrated features of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s $200 million headquarters have not lived up to expectations.

      The most glaring setback of the building that opened in 2012 is the energy-producing wind turbines affixed to the front facade of 525 Golden Gate Ave. have since been decommissioned and the company who installed them shortly afterward filed for bankruptcy.

      The memo details other complications that arose from trying to advance the green building movement. Some adjustments were needed to address noxious fumes from treating onsite all the building’s wastewater for other uses like irrigation.

      And while the photovoltaic system has met energy needs as planned, the solar inverter room became too hot due to poor ventilation, and a cooling system had to be installed.

      In another unexpected twist, the company that installed the inverter room has gone bankrupt, making replacement parts unattainable, the memo said.

      The memo discourages wind as an energy source.

      1. “Let me be very clear. These were experiments. We went further than most people would go because we had the opportunity to do that,” said SFPUC commissioner Anson Moran during that meeting.

        You fucked up: you trusted us.

        “The fact that [the building] didn’t perform according to our expectations, I don’t see that as a ding against anybody. The only ding against us would be if we didn’t tell people what we learned. That’s why I am so anxious to get those lessons out.”

        It’s a ding against taxpayers for forking over $200 million dollars to you dingbats.

        “We owe it to the people who paid for these projects to do a more complete report.”

        You wasted a ton of money already, might as well waste a ton of paper publishing a report nobody asked for and nobody wants.

        1. “Let me be very clear. These were experiments. We went further than most people would go because we had the opportunity to do that,” said SFPUC commissioner Anson Moran during that meeting.

          Yes, you had the opportunity to spend other people’s money with no requirement to pay it back. What a sanctimonious asshole.

      2. “In another unexpected twist, the company that installed the inverter room has gone bankrupt, making replacement parts unattainable, the memo said.”

        Can we assume Obo used our money to “invest” in this forward-looking operation?

    4. Jackand Ace|4.25.16 @ 11:28AM|#
      “…Safe to conclude there are more environmentalists than there are libertarians.”

      Pretty much a given that there are more ignoramuses than intelligent people, and you’re here top prove it.
      Fuck off, slaver.

    5. Somebody had to go and light the jackass signal.

  6. To be fair, all religions have been losing members over the last few decades.

    1. I wonder if all religions get co-opted somewhere around their peak popularity and then gradually die off afterwards.

      1. Given that most of the world’s major religions are at least 1000 years old, if not much more, I’d say it must be a pretty gradual die off.

    2. To be fair, all religions have been losing members over the last few decades.

      I don’t know where you’re getting that. As far as I’ve read, Christianity is in a holding pattern and Islam is projected to have a global 6 percent increase from 2010 to 2015.

      1. It might be true (all religions have been losing members ), in the USA and other highly developed countries, but in the 3rd world where the population is increasing the fastest, I doubt it.

        1. Yeah, I was thinking specifically of the US. And also trying to make a joke.

      2. Islam is projected to have a global 6 percent increase from 2010 to 2015.

        Welp, Free Society just had an aneurysm and died. I hope you’re happy.

      3. I call bullshit. No statistics on Wicca.

      4. I thought Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, was picking up a lot of growth in the third world.

        Might be offset by losses in the West, I suppose.

        But the next full on religious war probably won’t be in Europe. It will probably be in Africa. And it may not be long. Christian and Muslim “militias” are already exchanging fire there.

  7. Dies lutum.

  8. So less everyday people are “environmentalists” but there are more in positions of power – within government and mega-corporations – that are fundamentalists about it. Just another issue to separate the serfs from the lords. You could have 90% not classify themselves as such, but the 10% are in power, and continue to be, there’ll never be another coal plant, steel plant, oil refinery built in the US, and massive amounts of land and waterways, including the shorelines, will be in government and NGO hands.

    In short, this country is shifting into one big manorial estate.

    1. What I’m hearing is that we need a Scope’s Monkey Trial for environmental fundamentalist.

  9. Fearmongering seems to be backfiring

    Duh. People tend to react rather poorly when some smug condescending douchenozzle unloads a bunch of guilt tripping horseshit on them about how EVUL their lifestyle is and how they’re the cause of all the suffering in the world. It’s almost like people don’t like to be hectored and nannied about how they live their lives or something…

  10. Sure, all of the progtards like to signal that ‘hey, I’m one of the cool kids’. But just start telling them that they need to start making hard sacrifices. Tell them that they need to give up their electricity and mobile devices for large segments of the day to ‘save the planet’ and watch them scatter like scared rabbits.

    1. Almost every one of these fucktards is Al Gore. They have absolutely no intention of giving up their mobile device, they just want to take yours away from you.

      Maybe once or twice a year or so, we’ll read about one of those true believers that really believes in this bullshit and goes full off the grid primitive, but that’s like .0001% of self-proclaimed “environmentalists”.

    2. I went to an Earth Day event here in Dallas this weekend. The amount of free swag being given away was insane. I told my wife I really wanted to walk up to one of the retards pimping electric cars and ask them where the car was supposed to get charged and how electricity was provided to that location just to see their heads explode, but she wouldn’t let me.

      1. but she wouldn’t let me.

        I wanted to go up to someone pimping windmills and ask what he though about windmills killing hundreds of thousands of birds every year (including federally protected ones), but my gf wouldn’t let me.

      2. As I understand it (correct me if I’m wrong anyone who knows better), electric cars do make more efficient use of fossil fuels than do ICEs, so even if they are powered by coal, they do produce less emissions.

        Perhaps a better question is how much nasty pollution and CO2 is produced to make and transport that huge battery, rare earth magnets and all of the electronics?

        1. “Perhaps a better question is how much nasty pollution and CO2 is produced to make and transport that huge battery, rare earth magnets and all of the electronics?”

          ^ This. And how do you dispose of it when it dies?

          1. And perhaps the even bestest question: Why again am I paying for some progtards car?

        2. That was going to be my follow up question.

          And I was under the impression, perhaps things have changed since a few years ago, that the number one producers of non-industrial CO2 in the US were houses.

        3. It’s debatable. Assuming a std coal thermal plant (or nukular) you’re looking at less than 40% thermal efficiency. Transmission losses are generally around 7%. Charging losses are a couple to a few percent depending on slow or fast charge. Then you have some small self-discharge losses and significant losses for cabin heating in cold climates. All told your efficency is somewhere in the 20s which isn’t that far off a modern ICE. Go microhybrid with idle engine shutoff and ICE probably wins in a cold weather scenario.

          1. “…significant losses for cabin heating in cold climates…”

            And I’d bet significant losses for cooling in hot weather; those AC compressors take power.

  11. Gallup finds 42% of Americans identifying themselves as environmentalists, down from an average of 76% in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

    I blame “The Mentalist”.

  12. Hey, i was an environmentalist in the early ’90s. I was pretty rabid about it, too. Like, “humans should go extinct” rabid.

    In my defense i was in middle school at the time.

    1. I’m guessing Captain Planet was your favorite show.

      1. Even as an idiot child i found that show to be a bit preachy.

        1. I was a full-throated young, idealistic environmentalist activist when that show was on, and I hated that show with white-hot passion.

          Why? Because it was an early step towards what we know have: environmentalism as all-purpose nag-generator and moral fable source. That show had little in the way of actually useful information or accurate representations of real environmental issues – but it had lots of sanctimoniousness and misinformation dressed up as “lessons in Good for the kids.”

          It’s the same thing reading those awful “Ricky Raccoon” cartoons in the Ranger Rick magazine the parents buy for my youngin’. Random and largely inaccurate information whose only common strain is anti-capitalism dressed up as “environmentalism.” Disgusting.

  13. I think it’s a combination of things.

    As many have pointed out already, a lot of the environmental issues of the 80s have been solved. US residents younger than about 25 have never actually seen air pollution, for example. It is a mythic and mysterious thing to them, but “fighting” it has become political tradition because of the momentum of the environmentalist movement in the 90s.

    On the other hand, the government didn’t used to be involved. The EPA has been around a long time, of course, but in the early 90s radical environmentalists like my younger self saw the EPA as very much part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    In fact, I recall the environmental movement of the early 90s being pretty anti-government, and I always saw environmentalism as about changing personal practices, not about passing laws.

    1. I know I’ve told this story here before, but one of the older activists I used to work with, really smelly long-haired hippy guy, predicted that the inevitable government involvement would kill environmentalism because the government is in no way about solving problems – the government is about perpetuating problems for which they offer faux-solutions.

      His prediction was the government would simplify the issues by picking one thing to focus on, make that thing a topic of mass hysteria that would drown out all other concerns, and then spend lots of money not solving that problem.

      All that he predicted has come to pass. I wish I knew where he was now . . .

      1. I wish I knew where he was now

        Probably living in his own excrement/ mulch heap somewhere off the grid.

        1. Lighting Cuban cigars with $100 bills from his crony “green” grants is also a possibility.

    2. “US residents younger than about 25 have never actually seen air pollution”.

      I’m 46 and forgot what pollution was like in my younger years. I certainly remember tidbits of unpleasantness, but the improvement has been so steady that it is difficult to grasp the scale of the change.

      that is until I was visiting China last year, outside Shanghai in the manufacturing areas. I’ve never had asthma in my life, but was having breathing problems within a day. It is just unreal.

      1. Yeah-it’s hard to think back that far, but I was in elementary school in So Cal in the late 70s, early 80s, and there were days when you would try to play outside your eyes would sting and your lungs would hurt. You could not see downtown LA from the 5, and you couldn’t see the bottom of the hill from Griffith Park observatory.

        The change over the 90s was very, very gradual. Now you can regularly see Pasadena from Irvine.

  14. I feel like the environmentalist question (as with many others: guns, abortion, etc) is a loaded question. There are certain assumptions made when asking and answering it; namely in regards to CAGW. I’d say over 90% of the population would agree it’s a good idea to take care of the environment. After changing the oil in my car, I have it properly disposed of instead of just pouring it down the drain. Little things like that just seem common sense to me. I’m interested in alternative energy methods. Toyota’s largest North America plant is down the road from me and they recently started collecting methane from a local landfill to use to power their facility. And they did it without the government twisting their arm which is cool as hell in my book.

    tl;dr Questions like these are relevant only on the surface but have too many built-in assumptions to be truly useful though.

  15. Had the movement’s leaders stuck to pushing for smog reduction, cleaner lakes and rivers, and not throwing everything into a landfill after a brief use, they might have warded off the decline in popularity.

    Instead they chose scaremongering, impossible goals (humans can stop the climate from changing even though it has always changed over the eons), demanded more government power, and categorically excluded the best technology for reducing carbon emissions – nuclear- from even being considered.

    And now you have the likes of Nye claiming that those who disagree must be punished, much like those who do not accept religioun X will burn in hell.

    Basically, they blew it.

    1. The problem with modern environmentalism is that its adherents literally want to control everything – where you live, what you drive, what you eat and how much, what you can do with your property and even how much property you should be “allowed” to own, and even what you may say (see the AG witchhunt and proposals to criminalize “climate science denial”).

      When the application of one’s deeply-held beliefs* approach a level on par with the Inquisition, others recoil from the ideology itself.

      *There is certainly a crony incentive, but I think most people who claim to be environmentalists are sincere.

      1. “There is certainly a crony incentive, but I think most people who claim to be environmentalists are sincere.”

        The one’s who are sincere are mostly ordinary folk who actually have a limited knowledge of how science in general, much less climatology in particular, actually works and are just parroting statements they’ve been taught about the dire changes that are coming if we don’t give up our modern ways.

        The ones who want to dictate where you live, what you drive, what you eat, how big your property can be, etc. are probably not sincere at all. They are just the same ruling elite as before, who have figured out a modern equivalent to the old “divine right of kings” where those who dared question the lord of the manor or the realm well blaspheming.

        It should not be a question of whether or not the climate is changing (of course it is because it always has over the past 4 billions years), or whether or not humans are contributing to that in any way (they probably are — but not to any degree that stopping EVERYTHING we do would make any difference). The rational question should be how can technology help us to ADAPT to whatever changes we face? The long-term success of any species is always tied to its ability to adapt – not to the ability to “sacrifice,” repent their sins, glorify their leaders, or some other mystical trick to change the world around them.

        1. The rational question should be how can technology help us to ADAPT to whatever changes we face? The long-term success of any species is always tied to its ability to adapt – not to the ability to “sacrifice,” repent their sins, glorify their leaders, or some other mystical trick to change the world around them.

          Environmentalists would claim that their totalitarian policy is an attempt to adapt to AGW. They would argue that “investments” in renewables and restricting energy use is putting such adaptation into practice.

    2. The shift in focus from actual pollution that directly harms people to CO2 emissions is a big part of it, I agree. Even assuming the worst when it comes to AGW, it doesn’t really make sense to call CO2 a pollutant since it’s presence is an essential part of life on earth and in the concentrations it exists in or is likely to reach in the atmosphere it is not directly harmful to any person or other living thing and is beneficial to many organisms.

      1. Humans also depend on CO2 – or at least the technologies that produce it – for modern living. From a political perspective (and let’s face it: labeling CO2 a “pollutant” is entirely a political, not a scientific, act), giving up control of our own wellbeing to bureaucrats and politicians seems inadvisable, to say the least. That statement provides another reason why we should be skeptical of the CO2 “pollutant” label.

  16. At first I was extremely impressed that the global warming “concern” number only went from 33 to 37% given the incredible level of propaganda being spewed.

    However, I notice that the numbers compare 1990 to 2016. I’m thinking 1990 was a little early in the scare game for global warming to be registering deeply into US society.

    I’m guessing “great deal of concern” peaked around 2005-2010 and is now tapering off.

    Ron,do you have any stats on my hypothesis?

  17. When the self-proclaimed leaders of the environmental movement want us to sacrifice our very well-being upon Gaia’s altar, expect to see fewer people claiming to be environmentalists.

  18. I think of myself as an environmentalist.

    It blows people’s minds that I’m also a rabid capitalist.

    Socialism and partisanship are the worst things that ever happened to the environmentalist movement. If we fail to save the environment, it won’t be because rednecks refused to sacrifice their standard of living and put their trust in central planners. It’ll be because environmentalists failed to distinguish themselves from the partisan parasites that spew socialist stupidity in the name of environmentalism.

    Fuck the watermelons!

    1. “It’ll be because environmentalists failed to distinguish themselves from the partisan parasites that spew socialist stupidity in the name of environmentalism”

      ^ This.

      When was the last time the Green Party breathed a syllable regarding actual *environmental* issues, rather than “environmental” social justice issues?

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