Oil Spill Alters Views on Environmental Protection

Gallup finds that more Americans are likely to say that environmental protection should take precedence over energy production. This is a significant shift in public opinion since the BP oil spill began (55% for the environment and 39% for energy production in May 2010 compared to 43% to 50% in March 2010). Part of this shift in public attitudes on this issue can be attributed to changes among Democrats and indpendents where each group of respondents experienced a 15 point shift in their responses in May.

What’s interesting from this polling data is how the BP crisis in the Gulf of Mexico has triggered a significant change in public opinion on the environment. This shift is a marked difference from recent years where environmental concerns among Americans have dropped in priority as a result of energy and economic concerns. The aftermath of the current oil spill has created a focusing event that has shifted the public’s concern from the economy and gas prices towards environmental protection. I suspect as more visual images surface in mass media accounts of the spill, the public will continue to rank environmental issues among the top priorities for policymakers to deal with.  I’ve listed the Gallup findings below.

Recent Trend: Higher Priority for Energy  Production or Environmental Protection

Changes in Priority to Environmental  Protection vs. Energy Development, by Political Party

Recent Trend: Higher Priority for Economic  Development or Environmental Protection

Changes in Priority of Environmental  Protection vs. Economic Development, by Political Party