Poll: Water Pollution, Not Climate Change, Americans’ Top Environmental Concern

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., addresses the Road to the Green New Deal Tour final event at Howard University in Washington, Monday, May 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
AP Photo/Cliff Owen

A new Gallup poll reveals that water pollution is the top environmental concern for Americans — not climate change, which is the “crisis” that is currently driving policy across a broad range of departments in the Biden administration.

Gallup revealed the results of its annual environmental survey Monday, ahead of Earth Day on April 22:

Of six environmental problems facing the U.S., Americans remain most worried about those that affect water quality. Majorities express “a great deal” of worry about the pollution of both drinking water (56%) and rivers, lakes and reservoirs (53%).

Fewer, though still substantial minorities ranging between 40% and 45%, express a great deal of concern about the loss of tropical rain forests, global warming or climate change, air pollution, and the extinction of plant and animal species. Although less than half of Americans register the highest level of worry about these four issues, broad majorities say they worry at least “a fair amount” about each.

The poll, conducted among 1,010 American adults from March 1 to 15, had a margin of error of 4 points. It found that there are differences among Democrats and Republicans with regard to environmental issues, with Democrats more worried “a great deal” about the environment, and worrying “as much about global warming/climate change as about polluted drinking water.”

The poll results would seem to confirm the approach taken by President Donald Trump, who prioritized local environmental issues such as water pollution and Superfund cleanup sites over global climate change.

Then-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler provoked controversy in 2019 when he said that unsafe drinking water was a bigger threat than climate change. In 2020, he told Breitbart News Sunday that the Obama-Biden administration had focused on the “virtue signaling of climate change” while “ignoring environmental problems across the country.”

Wheeler also recently told Breitbart News that the Trump administration had also made progress on climate issues, including by lowering carbon emissions, though the media had largely ignored those achievements.

Last year, Wheeler noted in a speech at the Nixon Presidential Library in California commemorating the 50th anniversary of the EPA:

For much of the latter part of the 20th century, there was bipartisan understanding on what environmental protection meant.

Some of it was captured in legislation and some it by established practice.

These principles formed a consensus about how the federal government did its job of protecting the environment.

President Trump recognized this consensus when he asked me to take over the agency in 2018.

And his directions were pretty straight-forward.

He said, “Andrew, I want you to continue cleaning up our air, continue cleaning up our water, and deregulate to create more jobs for the American public.”

He knew we can do all three at the same time.

And so do I, and I’m sure all of you do as well.

But unfortunately, in the past decade or so, some members of former administrations and progressives in Congress have elevated single issue advocacy – in many cases focused just on climate change – to virtue-signal to foreign capitals, over the interests of communities within their own country.

Communities deserve better than this, but in the recent past, EPA has forgotten important parts of its mission. It’s my belief that we misdirect a lot of resources that could be better used to help communities across this country.

The Biden administration has made climate change its top environmental priority. Last week, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland reversed President Trump’s policy of promoting fossil fuel development on federal lands, and made climate change the top priority of the department.

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Tony Blinken delivered an address on the Biden administration’s climate change policy, in which he admitted that “not every American worker will win out in the near term. Some livelihoods and communities that relied on old industries will be hit hard.”

Biden’s new $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan also focuses on climate change, and left-wing Democrats in Congress re-introduced their “Green New Deal” this week.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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