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Survey: Americans fear for environment

A national survey taken by Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment shows most Americans fear the environment is getting worse and that something needs to be done to improve its health.

Fifty-five percent of those surveyed expect the world’s environment to be in worse shape in 10 years than it is now, while 60 percent say the environment is in “poor” or “very poor” shape.

“We refer to these 60 percent of Americans as pessimists,” said Jon A. Krosnick, a professor of humanities and social sciences. He said the group closely resembles the overall American public in terms of gender, race, education and whether they live in cities, the country or towns.

Krosnick said that 67 percent of Democrats are pessimistic about the future of the environment compared to 48 percent of Republicans, but that even a majority of Republicans are discontent about the health of the environment and the stewardship of it.

The Stanford survey was done in collaboration with ABC News and Time magazine. It was conducted by telephone March 9-14 among a random sample of 1,002 adult Americans, and the results have an error margin of 3 percentage points.

The survey showed that 86 percent want President George W. Bush, Congress, business and the public to do “a great deal” or “a lot” to improve the health of the environment over the next year. That includes 94 percent of Democrats surveyed and 76 percent of Republicans.

Only 21 percent approve of the way President Bush is handling environmental issues while 53 percent disapprove and 25 percent neither approve nor disapprove.

Eighty-five percent of the respondents said that global warming “has probably been happening,” but only 38 percent are “extremely or very sure about it.”

“This survey is modeled after the national surveys measuring Americans’ perceptions of the national economy, which yield the well-known economic indicators,” Krosnick said. “It will give us an annual basis by which to track overall perceptions of the future of the environment, as well as attitudes about specific issues such as global climate change.

Stanford’s Woods Institute is an interdisciplinary hub for the university’s Initiative for Environmental Stability. More than 250 Stanford faculty members are working on environmental issues.

— Don Kazak

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