Water Supply Trumps Other Environmental Issues in Latest Gallup Survey

A recent Gallup poll shows that when asked, Americans divulged that their top environmental concern is pollution of drinking water – an understandable concern.  So, where did global warming rank? Let’s dive a little deeper into the study and find out.

Results of the survey were based on (telephone) interviews conducted throughout the country on March 5-8, 2009.  1,012 adults (aged 18 and older) completed the telephone survey with a total group sampling error of plus/minus three percentage points.  Gallup reports that “In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.”

Nonetheless, respondents were given three choices when answering questions asked.  Optional responses were great deal, fair amount, and only a little/not at all.  Of greatest concern are water related issues; pollution of drinking water, pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs, contamination of soil and water by toxic waste, and maintenance of the nations supply of fresh water for household needs.

public responds to environmental concerns

After expressing the greatest concern about water related pollution, respondents admitted that air pollution was their next great environmental concern.  45% of respondents answered that air pollution personally worries them a great deal.  Extinction of plant and animal species and the loss of tropical rain forests ranked just above global warming, as is evident in the following chart:

environmental issues and public concern

Gallup has conducted this same survey, and have been monitoring annual results since 2000.  The first year of the survey, 66% of respondents said that they worried a great deal about pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs.  Just four short years later, that number had dropped 18 percentage points to 48%.  Fast forward to this years survey and that number is up only 4% (52%).  The following two line charts show the variation in responses from 2000 to 2009.

public concern of condition of lakes, rivers, and reservoirs

public concern about air pollutionAccording to Gallup, “Since 2004, public concern about the eight environmental matters rated this year has either been stable, or risen. The largest increase in concern is seen with global warming. Despite remaining at the bottom of the list of expressed concerns, the issue has nevertheless seen an eight-point increase in the last five years. There has been a similar seven-point increase in concern about the loss of tropical rain forests over that time.” The following chart breaks down the percentage of respondents answering they are worried a “great deal” about various environmental issues – taken from 2000, 2004 and 2009’s Gallup survey.

some people are very worried about environmental issues So, I ask you, how would you have answered these questions?  Do you agree with the findings? Do you feel the survey is missing something?  What’s your interpretation of the results?

Gallup – Water Pollution Americans’ Top Green Concern: Worry about environmental problems has edged up since 2004 by Lydia Saad

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  1. Environmental pollution problems concern varies with a person’s exposure. While American ranks water pollution problem as a major problem because quality of drinking-water and that of rivers concerns them significantly. A person in drought-prone area will term land degradation as major problem. Top soil washout and landslides would be a major concern for people living in Indonesia and Phillipines, acid rain for people living in Europe, and air pollution for people living in Karachi. A person working in UNEP or ADB would rank climate change as a major problem. The bottom line is: a person’s perspective and exposure to the environmental pollution, determines his/her priority. Thus, ranking differs from one area to another.


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