Gallup gets it wrong

A brand new Gallup poll reports:

“Americans prioritize protecting the environment over economic growth by 49% to 42% — but this seven-point margin is near the low of the past couple of decades.”

This simple, perhaps disappointing poll, hides as much as it reveals.

First, the good news. Even in this time of economic stress, people are willing to swap economic growth for environmental protection. They are worried about the environment and they would sacrifice to protect it.

Second and even more important is the false choice hidden in Gallup’s poll. The question asked whether “protection of the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth (or) economic growth should be given priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent.” [Order rotated].

Gallup is asking a wrong question, falling into the conservative ideological trap that we must choose one or the other. We do not need to sacrifice economic growth to protect the environment. They go hand in hand. The Apollo Alliance, for example, maps out a strategy to create next-generation jobs in a green economy. Apollo advises $30 billion a year in targeted public investment to create 3 million green-collar jobs, paid for by repealing oil company subsidies.

The people already know this. A survey of voters by Democracy Corps revealed that nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) want to “act immediately” on global warming. Nearly three out of four voters (74%) want to “move from oil to alternative fuels for our vehicles because it will cause less pollution, stop global warming and make us more energy independent.”

Given a choice, people even reject Gallup’s false choice. By an overwhelming margin (79% to 17%) voters surveyed by Democracy Corps believe that “shifting to new, alternative energy production will help America’s economy and create jobs, not cost Americans jobs.”

Van Jones said it clearly in our Take Back America conference last week. The path to energy security and a cleaner environment goes through wind farms and solar cells. These need to be built. “Thousands of contracts, millions of jobs.”

That’s where people want to go. Maybe our leaders will finally take us there. And next time, maybe Gallup will ask a better question.

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