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Americans’ Apathy Toward Environment Confirmed by Poll

Americans may have many things on their minds these days, but the environment apparently isn’t one of them. A new Gallup poll revealed that just 32 percent of Americans claim they care “a great deal” about global warming. That figure is three percent lower than 26 years ago. So in addition to being largely unconcerned about climate change, Americans seem to be getting more apathetic over time. Read on for the poll’s complete findings as well as theories behind Americans’ environmental indifference.

Gallup’s 2015 Poll on Climate Change

The survey Gallup released in late March shows that interest in and concern about global warming has waned over the past few decades. Americans’ concern about climate change peaked in the late eighties and early nineties but started dropping around 2000. Since then, worry about the environment has remained near record lows.

Severe Winter Has No Effect on Poll

broken glaciers

Image via Flickr by { pranav }

Many climate scientists have warned that the especially harsh conditions of this past winter are a sign that global warming is causing more extreme weather. While Americans don’t seem to dispute the extreme conditions of the 2014-2015 winter, they are reluctant to attribute them to global warming. The majority of the poll’s respondents reported that it was colder than usual this year where they live, but they cited normal weather variations as the cause.

Explaining the Indifference

The survey responses make little sense in light of how often climate change makes the news. Media coverage aside, environmental fields of study have proliferated over the past few decades. Law schools like Vermont Law offer degrees in environmental law, and MBA programs teach courses on making businesses more eco-friendly. We even saw the birth of the term “green-collar worker” to describe those with environmentally centered careers.

With environmental issues so salient, Americans’ lack of concern seems a inconsistent. Gallup offered several possible explanations. For one, Americans tend to care the most about the environment when the economy is doing well. Second, 42 percent of respondents believed that the seriousness of global warming is exaggerated, which would explain the disconnect between media coverage and public concern. Finally, because many respondents experienced colder-than-usual temperatures this past winter, pollsters suspect the connection to global warming is not as clear. The term suggests temperatures in the upper extremes, which is far from the case for most this past winter.

Water Pollution Concerns

While global warming didn’t worry most of the 1,025 adults surveyed, they were not without environmental concerns. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said they cared a great deal about polluted water. That number has also dropped in recent years. In 1990, 65 percent of respondents¬†worried about polluted water.

Perhaps what it comes down to is that Americans aren’t so much apathetic about the environment as they are simply preoccupied with other matters. The economy is still on the mend, and worrying about unemployment and foreclosure leaves little time to interpret bizarre weather patterns. Nevertheless, climate change won’t slow down so long as the people contributing to it are unfazed by its consequences.

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