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A few years ago, when the economy took a nosedive, a majority of Americans decided for the first time since the 1980s that the economy was more important to protect than the environment. Fortunately, that trend has reversed itself once again. Gallup has released a poll which shows that Americans once again prioritize the environment over economic growth by a 9 point margin, with Democrats leading the shift.
When asked if “protection of the environment should be given priority even at the risk of curbing economic growth,” 50 percent of Americans responded in the affirmative. That’s a large contrast to the 41 percent of Americans who favor growth over the environment. Ever since the question was first asked in 1984, Americans have favored the environment until 2009 when growth trumped environment for the first time. Among those aged 18-29, the margin is even wider with 60 to 30 percent favoring the environment.
Gallup also pointed out that Democrats and Republicans are divided on which should be prioritized, with two-thirds of Democrats prioritizing environment. Only one-third of Republicans say the same thing. Unsurprisingly, given the current political climate, this is the largest gap between political parties since 1997. Most of this shift, however, comes from Democrats moving to support the environment over growth. Prior to George W. Bush’s term as president, both Democrats and Republicans prioritized the environment. Ever since Bush opted out of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, Republicans have favored growth.