Economy

Americans say save the economy, not the planet

March 21, 2011 at 7:41 AM ET

Gallup /

The Great Recession appears to have had a big – and negative - impact on Americans’ sympathy for Mother Earth.

A Gallup poll released last week found that Americans are prioritizing economic growth over the environment by the widest margin in nearly three decades.

The poll found that 54 percent of Americans think economic growth should be given priority over environmental protection, while 36 percent thought the environment should be given the top priority.

For decades, the chart was reversed, with the majority of Americans saying that environmental protection should be the top concern. But things began to change when the economy entered its sharp decline in 2008, only reversing course again briefly following the Gulf Oil spill.

It’s unclear if the nuclear disaster in Japan will cause people to rethink those priorities. The survey of around 1,000 adults was conducted March 3 through 6, before Japan was rocked by a massive earthquake and tsunami, which has killed thousands of people and left a hobbled nuclear plant leaking radiation.

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