Air pollution is nearly as high a concern for Americans, with 72% worried a great deal or a fair amount about it. A little more than 6 in 10 worry about the related problems of extinction of plant and animal species and the loss of tropical rain forests. Slightly fewer worry about urban sprawl and loss of open spaces, while barely half, 51%, worry about global warming.
The current levels of public concern about various environmental problems are essentially unchanged from 2010. However, Americans are less worried today than they were 10 years ago about all eight issues Gallup measured in 2001. The decline over the past decade spans a period when the public often expressed surging concern about terrorism, the Iraq war, gas prices, and the economy.
Degree of Americans' Concern About Environmental Problems (Multiple Choice)
Degree of Concern (% of Respondents)
Great deal,Fair amount
Not at all
Contamination of soil and water by toxic waste
Polution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs
Pollution of drinking water
Maintenance of nations' fresh water for HH needs
Extinction of plants and animals
Loss of tropical rain forests
Urban sprawl/Loss of open spaces
Source: Gallup, March 2011
The report concludes by noting that, although the United States has experienced nothing like the mass drinking-water scare that is gripping Japan during its current nuclear crisis, Americans largely recognize the importance of clean water to their lives. All four environmental issues referring to "water" in this year's Gallup Environment poll rank in the upper tier of environmental concerns, with air pollution a close fifth.
Perhaps not surprisingly says the report, there is a slightly steeper drop-off in concern about several issues that aren't directly related to daily survival, such as the loss of tropical rain forests and urban sprawl. What may surprise some, given the broad exposure the issue has received in recent years, is that global warming ranks lowest, consistent with other Gallup polling, with barely half of Americans concerned and 48% only a little or not at all concerned.
To view methodology, full question results, and trend data in a PDF file from Gallup, please visit here.