Before the Japanese earthquake and resulting nuclear crisis, a majority of Americans -- 55% -- said President Obama is doing a good job of protecting the nation's environment. At the same time, 55% said he is doing a poor job of making America prosperous and, by 47% to 41%, Americans said he is doing a poor rather than a good job of improving the nation's energy policy.
These results are based on Gallup's annual Environment survey, conducted March 3-6, just prior to the March 11 earthquake, tsunami, and resulting nuclear crisis in Japan. The survey asks Americans to rate the president on these three dimensions. Obama's ratings on all three are similar to his ratings last year, but remain well below those from March 2009, shortly after he took office.
The high rating on the environment, however, will do him only limited good. Gallup also reports:
Gallup finds the widest margin in nearly 30 years in Americans' prioritizing economic growth (54%) over environmental protection (36%). Americans for the most part have given the environment higher priority since Gallup first asked this question in 1984.
The results, part of Gallup's annual Environment poll, continue the trend toward Americans' assigning a higher priority to the economy since the economic downturn began in 2008. That trend was interrupted by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill; Gallup found Americans returning, rather dramatically but only temporarily, to a pro-environment position last May, shortly after the spill occurred.
The recent trend in these attitudes suggests Americans are responsive to what is going on with both the economy and the environment. The current poll was conducted March 3-6, the week before a major earthquake and tsunami struck Japan and caused a nuclear power plant to fail. It is not clear whether the nuclear disaster in Japan will cause Americans to shift in a more pro-environment direction.
In Gallup's 2000 Environment poll, Americans overall favored the environment over the economy by a better than 2-to-1 margin (67% to 28%). At that time, all major demographic and attitudinal subgroups were strongly pro-environment. Now, all have moved rather dramatically toward a pro-economy position.
As the budget debate moves into a crucial phase, far fewer Americans say that Republicans in Congress have the better approach to the budget deficit than did so in November, shortly after the GOP’s sweeping election victories. The GOP has lost ground on the deficit among political independents and, surprisingly, among key elements of the Republican base, including Tea Party supporters.
However, the public is no more supportive of Barack Obama’s approach to the budget deficit than it was in November. Rather, there has been a sharp rise in the percentage saying there is not much difference between Obama’s approach and that of congressional Republicans – 52% say that now, up from just 33% in November.
The shift in opinion has been particularly dramatic among Republicans, Republican-leaning independents and Tea Party supporters. Shortly after the November election, 76% of Tea Party supporters said Republicans in Congress had a better approach to the budget deficit while just 16% said there was not much difference between their approach and Obama’s. Today, 52% of Tea Party supporters say the GOP has a better approach and 39% say there is not much difference in how the two sides approach the deficit
One major unknown: whether the Libya strikes will produce a rally effect.