Public Divided on Environmental Issues

While the BP oil spill has officially become the worst in U.S. history, Americans remain divided over whether the government should increase offshore oil drilling, according to a nationwide survey of 1,001 adults conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Public Policy. 

When asked specifically about drilling’s risks and benefits, 51% said the environmental risks outweigh the benefits, while 35% think the benefits outweigh the environmental risks. Nonetheless, 45% support increased offshore drilling, with 44% opposing it (margin of error: ±3.7%).


  • 80% say pollution of the country’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs is a major problem; 16% say it’s a minor problem; and 3% say it’s not a problem.
  • Air pollution is considered a major problem by 74%, and 73% worry about our overreliance on energy from oil and gas.

Global Warming 

  • 54% say global warming is a major problem, 23% consider it a minor problem, and 19% say it’s not a problem.
  • Views about global warming are divided along partisan lines, with 70% of Democrats identifying it as a major problem; only 27% of Republications agree. Most Independents (53%) think global warming is a major problem.
  • Perceptions lean toward the view that scientists are divided over global warming, with 49% of those polled saying many scientists have serious doubts about the evidence; 37% believe the evidence is widely accepted in the scientific community. Once again, views were split along partisan lines.

For Your Organic Bookshelf: The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability

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