October 14, 2016

Illinois voters prize environment over economic growth

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A majority of registered voters in Illinois believe the earth is getting warmer because of human activity rather than natural patterns, according to the latest poll from Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. 

There are 57 percent who believe human activity causes global warming while 25 percent believe in natural causes. Only 12 percent claim there is no evidence the earth is getting warmer, while 7 percent haven’t formed an opinion. 

The survey of 1,000 registered voters was taken Sept. 27-Oct. 2. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points. 

Another question asked whether to prioritize environmental protection or economic growth. Sixty-four percent believe that the environment should be given priority even at the cost of economic growth, while 27 percent believe that economic growth should be prioritized. 

Shiloh Deitz, a researcher at the institute, said, “Voters understand environmental issues and are willing to prioritize them.” 

Among the poll’s findings:

  • Opinions differ about the environment across party and ideological lines: 82 percent of liberals believe climate change is due to human activity; only 28 percent of conservatives believe the same.
  • While most liberals (80 percent) would prioritize the environment over economic growth, conservatives are split, with 44 percent wishing to prioritize the environment and an almost equal 43 percent who want to focus on economic growth.
  • Sixty-six percent of respondents under 50 see climate change as the result of human activity, compared to 55 percent of people 51 to 65 years old, and 47 percent of those over 66 years old. 

Deitz said “there is a stark contrast of these opinions across age groups. Gen X-ers and millennials have grown up with environmental awareness campaigns and this is clear in the results,” she said. “Younger people are most likely to see climate change as a result of human activity and want to prioritize environmental preservation even at the cost of economic growth.”

Only 7 percent of millennials believe that there is no evidence the earth is getting warmer, compared to 16 percent of adults over 66. Seventy-nine percent of those under 35 would prioritize the environment, while 61 percent of those over 66 would do the same. 

One trend in the data indicates the Republican Party may soon grow more environmentalist. Nearly half (49 percent) of Republicans or conservatives under 50 years old believe human activity can be blamed for the earth getting warmer compared to only a quarter of those over 50. Sixty-two percent of Republicans or conservatives under 50 would prioritize the environment even at the cost of economic growth compared to only 41 percent of Republicans or conservatives over 50. 

Poll results are available here

For more results, contact Dietz at 618/453-4004 or John Jackson, institute visiting professor, at 618/453-3106. 

The margin of error for the entire sample of 1,000 voters is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. This means that if we conducted the survey 100 times, in 95 of those instances, the population proportion would be within plus or minus the reported margin for error for each subsample. For subsamples, the margin of error increases as the sample size goes down. The margin of error was not adjusted for design effects. 

Live telephone interviews were conducted by Customer Research International of San Marcos, Texas using the random digit dialing method. The telephone sample was provided to Customer Research International by Scientific Telephone Samples. Potential interviewees were screened based on whether they were registered voters and quotas based on area code and sex (<60% female). Interviewers asked to speak to the youngest registered voter at home at the time of the call. Cell phone interviews accounted for 60 percent of the sample. A Spanish language version of the questionnaire and a Spanish-speaking interviewer were made available. 

Field work was conducted from Sept. 27 to Oct.  2. No auto-dial or “robo” polling is included. Customer Research International reports no Illinois political clients. The survey was paid for with non-tax dollars from the institute’s endowment fund. The data were not weighted in any way. Crosstabs for the referenced questions will be on the institute’s polling website, http://paulsimoninstitute.siu.edu/opinion-polls/index.php 

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute is a member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s (AAPOR) Transparency Initiative. AAPOR works to encourage objective survey standards for practice and disclosure. Membership in the Transparency Initiative reflects a pledge to practice transparency in reporting survey-based findings. 

Simon Institute polling data are archived by four academic institutions for use by scholars and the public. The four open source data repositories are: the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research (http://ropercenter.cornell.edu/polls/), the University of Michigan’s Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (http://home.isr.umich.edu/centers/icpsr/), the University of North Carolina’s Odum Institute Dataverse Network (https://dataverse.unc.edu/), and the Simon Institute Collection at OpenSIUC (http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/ppi/).  

Note: The “Paul Simon Public Policy Institute Poll,” the “Simon Poll” and the “Southern Illinois Poll” are the copyrighted trademarks of the Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University. Use and publication of these polls is encouraged -- but only with credit to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIU Carbondale.