Majority of Americans Agree: Protecting the Environment Creates Jobs

The majority of Americans (58 percent) think that protecting the environment improves economic growth and creates new jobs. The results are from a recently released poll by Yale University and George Mason University’s climate change communication program. Only 17 percent of the poll’s respondents think that environmental protection hurts the economy and job growth, and 25 percent think there is no effect. When there is a conflict between protecting the environment and improving the economy, 62 percent think it is more important to protect the environment, and only 38 percent thought economic growth is more important.

Although there is some difference between Democrats and Republicans on this issue, the gap is narrowing with 91 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Republicans responding that overall, protecting the environment either improves economic growth and provides new jobs, or has no effect. This is good news for those trying to protect the environment. It is also good news for anyone who thinks business needs to be sustainable.

When it comes to developing clean energy, the news is equally as good. The whopping majority of respondents (92 percent) think that developing clean energy sources should be either a very high priority (31), high (38), or medium (23) for the president and Congress. This includes 84 percent of Republican respondents. Over two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) think that the U.S. should make either a large-scale or medium-scale effort to reduce global warming, even if it would have large or moderate economic costs. Now that is surprising given the news cycle which seems to pit Republicans against Democrats when it comes to the environment. If this survey is any indication, the American people are not so divided over protecting what Mother Nature gave us.

The majority of respondents (79 percent) also support R&D for developing renewable energy sources, including 74 percent of Republicans. However, there is a bit of bad news: opposition to renewable energy research more than doubled from eight percent in 2008 to 21 percent in 2012. Can anyone say, “Solyndra?”

It looks like the American people support a renewable portfolio standard. More than half of respondents (63 percent) support requiring utilities to produce at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, even if household costs increase by $100 a year. However, strong support has decreased from 31 percent in 2008 to 20 percent now. There is a bit of a disparity in support for this policy between Democrats and Republicans: 65 percent of Democrats support this policy, but only 47 percent of Republicans support it.

Over half of respondents (61 percent) support holding the fossil fuel industry responsible for “all the hidden costs we pay for citizens who get sick from polluted air and water, military costs to maintain our access to foreign oil, and the environmental costs of spills and accidents.” However, there is a wrinkle: the support for that policy varies among Democrats and Republicans, with 68 percent of Democrats favoring it, but only 54 of Republicans in favor of the policy.

Photo: Flickr user, Pure3d

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

3 responses

    1. Like any survey, one needs to take a grain of salt, but I also think talking about “the green sector” doesn’t really help matters.  What exactly is “the green sector”?  Does that even exist? Should it?  Shouldn’t all companies be considering a “greener” strategy?  

      See MIT’s recent report which suggests that in most cases this kind of thinking is indeed profitable –

  1. I don’t think the modern American President has the kind of support that FDR had when he established the “New Deal”.  That, of course, put tens of thousands of people to work in the post-depression reconstruction.  Could government do the same today, putting people to work in green enterprises? 

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