The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico appears to have shifted the views of many Americans. According to a recent Gallup / USA Today poll, American’s inclination for prioritizing between energy products and environmental protection have changed from a moderate pro-energy position to an even greater pro-environment position. It appears that this disaster has brought environmental protection to the forefront of the public and mass media.
Back in late May, a poll was done to gauge public sentiment on choosing between developing U.S. Energy supplies and protecting the environment. The study showed that 50% of Americans were inclined to develop U.S. energy supplies while 43% chose to focus on protecting our environment. This is in contrast to public sentiment just a few years ago. In 2007, 58% of people preferred protecting the environment over 34% people who wanted to develop our countries energy.
However, this gap was shortened in 2008 to 50% for pro environment and 41% for pro energy. The gap was eradicated completely when sentiment was nearly identical (47% to 46%) in 2009 and jumped to a pro energy preference earlier this year. The spill has changed all of this, causing the pro environment sentiment to jump to 55% and pro energy to drop to 39%, nearly reaching the levels that were found in the 2007 poll, making it the second largest percentage favoring the environment in the decade of the questions existence.
This position has been held onto by Democrats since late in March, so the strength has grown on this position since the accident. Independents views have completely changed along with the public sentiment, while Republicans views have not been wavered. Republicans continue to prioritize energy production ahead of protecting our environment. These shifts in sentiment have been greater among the Democrats and Independents, but have at least shown a sliver of movement among Republicans as well.
In the end, its safe to say that the spill has significantly changed Americans environmental attitudes. These attitudes were likely to be shifting towards pro energy in the last few years because of the economy, as our country placed a larger priority on concerns that directly correlated with their wallet. However, in the last two months this has all changed, and the pro environment position has garnered strength and has regained its reign it had shown for the majority of our last decade.