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Politics and Culture

The environment—is it just for liberals?

The environment—is it just for liberals?

In declaring the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, President Trump may be calculating that there just aren’t that many Americans whose concerns about the environment outweigh other priorities.  On this point, he would be correct: barely one in 10 Americans in our latest SurveyMonkey poll would say “the environment” is the single most important issue facing the country today.

While the relatively small number calling the environment their No. 1 concern doesn’t mean there’s a lack of support for action on the climate issues (see here from Pew Research), it does highlight the narrowness of the political debate on the matter. Just who are those who single out the environment as their top concern, over the economy, health care, terrorism, and other concerns?

Here we dive into the new numbers to provide a snapshot of the people who now prioritize the environment. Of course, we’ll be tracking whether and how these data change in the wake of Trump’s announcement yesterday.

In the latest data, collected May 26 through June 1, we have 1,213 adults who rate the environment as their No. 1 concern. These people tend to be similar in distribution in terms of gender, non-white respondents, and those who are registered to vote. However, where they do differ, the environmental crowd is made up disproportionately of younger adults (Millennials, specifically), non-Hispanic whites, Democrats or independents, and they tend to have higher levels of formal education. (See demographic comparison here.)

Some key differences include:

  • Trump’s (dis)approval rating: for these environmentally-conscious respondents, approval is in the low ‘teens, but those who “Strongly disapprove” is near 80 percent (78 percent) compared with the overall sample (46 percent).
  • Party ID: The overall distribution by party identification breaks down with Republicans, Democrats, and independents at 27, 32, and 37 percent respectively. People who care most about the environment skew more Democratic and independent with 90 percent falling into these groups (45 percent each).
  • Ideology: Almost half (48 percent) of these environmentalists identify as Liberal or Very Liberal–double that of respondents overall in both categories.
  • Race: Comprised of 65 percent Whites overall, environmentally-concerned respondents are slightly more white (71 percent).
  • Age:  Millennials (18-34 year olds) comprise 41 percent of this environmentally-conscious crowd compared to 30 percent of respondents overall.
  • Education: There are also more college graduates in this group; +6 percentage points compared to the sample overall (30 percent vs. 24 percent).

As of this writing, three states have taken it upon themselves to start the “United States Climate Alliance” to stay committed to reducing the impact of climate change and other cities and business are following suit.  

Tracking Trump’s Approval

Be sure to check back each week to to see how people think Mr. Trump is doing in his job as president.