Public Divided on Environmental Issues

Publish date:
Updated on

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

Related Stories