Public Wants Action on Energy and the Environment

Last week, with the president in Europe for the G-8 conference, our weekly public opinion snapshot covered the public’s desire for serious action on global warming, the greatest threat to our environment. This week, as Congress debates energy policy, it’s worth stressing that the public’s environmentalist commitments extend to this area as well.

An April CBS News/New York Times poll collected a wide range of data that demonstrates these commitments. By an almost two-to-one margin (63 percent to 32 percent), the public endorses the idea that protecting the environment is so important that “requirements and standards cannot be too high” and that “continuing environmental improvements must be made regardless of cost.”


The public is also quite clear on its priorities when it comes to promoting energy conservation versus increasing the supply of oil, coal, and natural gas. When asked which of these should be the higher priority, the public chooses energy conservation by a very wide 68 percent-to-21 percent margin.


How about developing alternative energy sources? Here the public is almost unanimous (87 percent) that this would be a good idea because alternative energy is better for the environment, compared to just 9 percent who think it would be a bad idea because such sources “are too expensive and can be unreliable.”


The public is also virtually unanimous that the need to cut down on energy consumption and protect the environment means increased energy efficiency should be mandated for certain products. As the chart below shows, when it comes to automobiles, 92 percent now support such requirements.


Let’s hope that Congress takes these very clear and very strong public sentiments into account as it debates energy policy in the coming weeks.

For more information on the public opinion on this issue, see: