Earth Day Poll: Many Think Environment Will Get Worse

CBS News Poll analysis by Fred Backus of the CBS News Polling Unit.

Roughly one in two Americans expects the environment to be in worse shape for the next generation, a new CBS News poll finds. Just 16 percent expect it to improve.

The poll comes on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and reflects Americans' pessimism about the direction of the environment as Congress debates comprehensive energy legislation designed in part to reduce carbon emissions.

The findings actually reflect an improvement in perceptions from three years ago, when 57 percent of those surveyed expected the environment to get worse for the next generation. At that time, just 11 percent predicted it would improve.

The most pessimistic Americans are those under 45: Only 15 percent in this group expect improvement, while 54 percent predict the environment will get worse.

Seventeen percent of Americans over 45 say that the environment will get better, while 44 percent say it will get worse.

Men are slightly more optimistic than women, as are wealthier Americans.

Read the Complete Poll
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This poll was conducted among a random sample of 858 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone March 29-April 1, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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