Moral Failings: Has our fire gone out for the environment? of a forest fire courtesy Wikimedia Commons.Most Americans say the state of our moral values is dreadful, according to new Gallup data we’ve been exploring since Monday.
Today’s question: Is one of the failings giving the right priority to the environment?

What should the right priority be?
Consider the following statements and decide which one is closest to your own priorities.
Statement 1:
Protection of the environment should be given priority, even at the cost risk of curbing economic growth.”
Statement 2: “Economic growth should be given priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent.”

No matter which statement you chose, you have plenty of company. About half (49%) of Americans chose the second statement, giving priority to economic growth, according to another new survey by the Gallup organization. But 41% disagreed, choosing the first statement and giving priority to the environment.

Given the state of our economy, I suppose it’s not surprising that more Americans would favor jobs over the environment. Before 2008, when economic times were better, a majority of Americans did give priority to the environment. But over the course of the entire last decade, the level of support for the environment never exceeded 55%. Perhaps something else is going on.

Thirty years ago, a much larger majority of Americans gave priority to the environment, according to Gallup. In 1985, for example, 61% favored the environment over economic development. The level of support was even higher in 1991 when more than seven of ten (71%) favored the environment. Even in 1999, the figure was high—67%. Once we entered the last decade of the 20th century, support for the environment over economic growth deteriorated considerably.

Do you give priority to the environment or to economic growth?

Have your priorities about these issues changed over time?

Why has support for the environment slipped so much over the last 30 years?


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Originally published at, an experiment in civil dialogue about American values.

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