The malaise of the voters

Definitely depressing: "Environment High in Personal Values, Low in Political Priorities for U.S. Voters"

All I have to do is leave you with the following quote:

"There is a clear disconnect here," said William K. Reilly, former head of the US Environmental Protection Agency and chair of the advisory board of the Nicholas Institute. "Seventy-four percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Democrats say they support stronger environmental standards. Yet, when it comes time to vote, they rank the environment low on their list of priorities."

In focus groups, the environment ranked last out of nine leading political issues, trailing the economy and jobs, health care, Iraq, Social Security, terrorism, education, moral values, and taxes--in that order. Only 10 percent of voters identified the environment as one of their top concerns, compared to 34 percent for the economy and jobs.

I admit that I was definitely one of these people, although I think I would have ranked environmental concerns somewhere in the top 5. But I know better now, and there has to be a way to convince people that the state of the environment affects other political issues too. It certainly affects health care in obvious, tangible ways, and a case could be made for taxes (if we let companies pollute, taxpayers' money is used for cleanup). Moral values? If this isn't a moral value, what is?

Well, I guess I don't need to reinvent the mission of the Sierra Club or the National Resources Defense Council, but let's just say I have a much greater appreciation for their struggles now.

Hat tip: Gristmill

There's a great website called The Polling Report that tracks recent polls on a variety of topics, including Energy.

From the most recent poll by CBS news, 64% of Americans claim that they have reduced their amount of driving. Personally I think this is probably similar to the percentage of Americas that claim to be on a diet (but never lose weight).

The most interesting part is that most people want conservation to be the governmental response instead of encouraging increased production, but most people think Bush will do the opposite.

Hmmm...see, here's the problem. How many voters do y'all suppose really care deeply - deeply now - about the Spotted Owl?

How many more merely use The Environment as just another means to casually lash out at Wicked Corporations, or to express NIMBYism, or otherwise to assuage whatever's got them hot under the collar and nostalgic for the Simple Life at the moment? If you can't sit on a jury and vote a big, vengeful verdict, well, what better to do than express Concern, i.e. a desire for much expensive Command-and-Control Regulation?

But how long are said voters going to stick with it when the bill comes due? Despite sentiments expressed here and on TOD, who, for example, is really going to squander two hours walking to, waiting for, and riding the bus to avoid a twenty minute drive and save a pittance in gas - which is the reality in most places in the USA, including even some parts of NYC, like Staten Island and outer Queens? Or bike to work and be the only one in the office smelling like something that's not a rose? Or forgo the enormous financial gains to be had on a suburban house?

I get your point, and I think you're probably 95% right, but just for the sake of it, I do want to point out that very often it takes less time to take the subway than to take surface transportation. Going to Grand Central from lower Manhattan? Definitely take the subway. Even going to any of the airports is better done through a combination of 2 or 3 trains than taking a taxi at many times of the day.

Ah. I see I made a mistake (belatedly corrected). I also meant to give a hat tip to this Gristmill post, where Dave Roberts says that personal conservation simply isn't going to change the world. OK, I happen to believe that it can go a long way if we're able to influence our friends and neighbors, but his point was that large scale change is going to have to come at the political level. That is, you're right, PaulS! People don't want to give up the luxuries! But sometimes, maybe government regulation is there for a reason, and the issues you bring up might be one of them.