Public Concern Veers Away from the Environment

Apr 23, 2002

According to Gallup’s annual survey on the environment, public concern during the past year has fallen off. Public anxiety about the environment, crime, homelessness, drugs and a number of other issues seems to have been diffused by the new importance of terrorism as a problem.

In March 2001, 42 percent of Americans told Gallup that they personally worried “a great deal” about the quality of the environment, but today this number is 35 percent. During the same period, the ranks of those saying they have only a little or no concern have increased from 22 percent to 33 percent.

The key finding may be that the public sees this as a problem for the future, not the present. When asked to name the most important problem facing the country today, only two percent of Americans mention the environment. When asked to forecast the nation’s top problem in 25 years, however, the percentage mentioning the environment jumps to 10 percent. Thus, while the environment ties for 12th on the list of perceived current problems, it ranks second on the list of problems Americans see headed in their direction in the next two to three decades, just behind the economy.

Moderator Comment: Is the environment an economic issue? In what ways can retailers positively impact the environment and bottom line performance at the same time?

We have been debating for a month whether to run any Earth Day stories. We questioned whether environmental issues are considered to be less pressing than in the past.

Of course, in the past 24 hours, the price of crude oil has gone up over the prospect of an oil embargo by some Arab countries. BTW – The retail price at the tank is going to go up, even in countries (England for one) that are totally self-sufficient when it comes to oil. [George Anderson – Moderator]

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