As economic conditions have continued to worsen throughout 2008, voters have grown more concerned about protecting jobs than protecting the environment. Asked which issue they are more concerned about today, 65% of U.S. voters say they are more concerned about protecting jobs, while only 27% are more concerned about protecting the environment. This is a notable change from six months ago, when concern about jobs was higher than concern about the environment, but to a lesser degree than today. Further comparison to past data reflects a pattern of concern consistent with the economic ups and downs over the past three years, as reflected in the following table:
U.S. Voters: Jobs vs. the Environment
“Are you more concerned about protecting the environment or protecting jobs?”
As we have reported in the past, when the economy is good, or even stable, people are less concerned about pocketbook issues and more interested in other issues, such as the environment. Conversely, the build up of negative economic conditions throughout 2008 has clearly contributed to the increasing importance of jobs. Further, with current polls and consumer confidence indices reporting all time high negative perceptions of economic conditions, it is not surprising that majorities among all voter subgroups are putting jobs ahead of the environment.
Looking at specific subgroups, voters in the Mountains/Plains states, North Central U.S. and the South are all more concerned about protecting jobs than voters in the Pacific and Northeast regions. Women age 18-54 are more concerned about protecting jobs than older women and men of all ages. Concern about protecting jobs correlates to education: those with less education (i.e. 0-15 years) are more concerned about jobs than college graduates and those with post-graduate educations. By party, Republicans and Independents are more concerned about protecting jobs than Democrats, and Conservatives are more concerned about protecting jobs over protecting the environment than Moderates and Liberals. Lastly, ethnicity plays a role in perceptions, as African American voters are more concerned about protecting jobs over the environment than other voters. The following table summarizes these findings: