Friday, October 14, 2005

Poll on environmental issues

WHarris and the Wall Street Journal asked:
"Do you agree or disagree with this statement: Protecting the environment is so important that requirements and standards cannot be too high, and continuing environmental improvements must be made regardless of cost."
Three quarters of Americans agreed, 69% of conservatives vs. 82% of liberals. That number hasn't been so high since 1997.

The question above is fascinating and almost certainly gives inaccurate results because it says "regardless of cost." There are prices people would be unwilling to pay, and economic researchers can figure that out if need be. They didn't ask "Would you pay 10¢ more for gas to protect the environment?" even though there's a growing consensus that raising gas taxes would be the most effective way to wean the nation off of gasoline. I bet they'd get much lower numbers even though 10¢ isn't that much.

What this question means, presumably, is that people believe that reasonable environmental protections are within the the spending power of society at a fairly low cost. Eliminating CFCs cost relatively little, as did reducing acid rain. Low flow toilets are annoying at times, but they save water and are about the same price as toilets ever were. It's encouraging that so many people realize that saving the environment probably won't cost exorbitant amounts, and that they think it's worth that minimal cost.

Another interesting result: only 30% of conservatives think there's too much regulation, compared to 19% of the general public.

The interesting thing about the results is that Democrats and independents are pretty similar on both questions.

This tracks pretty well with a lot of polls which show independents and Democrats agreeing on policy issues, while Republicans are off in their own little world.

Consider this graph of approval ratings, care of Pew's latest survey.

See how Democrats and independents have both responded about the same way to events, while Republicans have stayed pretty steady? In the latest survey, 488 people identified as Democrats, 488 as Independents, and 421 as Republicans. The Indycrats could form a ruling coalition without too much trouble.
Of course, domestic policy isn't where national elections are won. We live in an age of terrorism and war. On those issues, independents split the difference. On the question of whether we should have gone into Iraq at all, 50% of the nation says "No," but that represents 18% of Republicans, 72% of Democrats, and 42% of Independents. The divide on the question "How well is the US effort in Iraq going?" is almost identical.

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