What We Really Think

How Do Americans Feel About the Environment?

  • Approximately two in three American adults (68 percent) rate the overall quality of the environment in the country today as being “fair” or “poor,” and about half (52 percent) believe it is getting worse.
  • Many Americans also say they are “very” or “somewhat” worried about:
    • Pollution of oceans, rivers, lakes and reservoirs (84 percent)
    • Air pollution (81 percent)
    • How the way we live today will impact the environment in 20 years (81 percent)
    • Global warming (70 percent)
    • The state of forests in the United States (68 percent)
    • The extinction of plant and animal species (67 percent)

How “Green” Are Americans?

  • When asked to rank themselves on a 10-point scale where a “10” means they consider themselves to be extremely Green (taking steps in their daily lives to help the environment), more than half (59 percent) give themselves a score of six or higher.
  • Almost nine in 10 also say it is “very” or “somewhat” important to them personally to be Green (89 percent), and even more (95 percent) say that it is “very” or “somewhat” important to them personally to teach future generations to be Green.

What Do Americans Know?

  • While approximately four in five Americans (83 percent) say they are “very” or “somewhat” well informed about the environment, only one in five (19 percent) correctly answer more than half of a series of 12 questions designed to gauge environmental knowledge.
  • When it comes to knowledge about the state of U.S. forests, about two in three (64 percent) say that they are at least “somewhat” well informed about the state of the forests in particular, but as seen in the enclosed Myths and Facts sheet, actual knowledge generally does not match the self-perceived knowledge.

What Do Americans Do?

  • Some Green behavior is relatively common. For example, most adults say they:
    • Turn off the lights when they leave a room all or most of the time (91 percent)
    • Turn off the water while brushing their teeth all or most of the time (63 percent)
    • Are willing to pay a little or a lot more for products that are environmentally friendly (74 percent)
  • But other behavior is not as Green as it could be. More than half of American adults say they:
    • Rarely or never carpool, bike, walk or take public transportation to work (54 percent)
    • Rarely or never participate in community environmental events like neighborhood cleanups and tree plantings (58 percent)
    • Always ask for plastic rather than paper bags at a grocery store or do so most of the time for environmental reasons, even though paper is the renewable, recyclable and biodegradable choice (54 percent)

How Do Women and Men Compare?
The data indicates that women are often less informed but more passionate about the environment than men.

  • 46 percent of women, versus 33 percent of men, claim it is “very” important to them to be Green
  • Similarly, 53 percent of women, versus 40 percent of men, are “very” worried about the way we live today impacting the environment in 20 years
  • However, only 18 percent of women, versus 26 percent of men, consider themselves “very” well informed about the environment
  • Women are also more interested in learning about the environment, with 44 percent saying that they are “very” interested, versus 37 percent of men
  • Similarly, 77 percent of women, versus 69 percent of men, believe it is “very” important to teach future generations how to be Green

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