Daily Egyptian

Illinois voters say protecting environment takes priority over economic growth

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(Andrew Rush/Pittsburgh Post-Dispatch/TNS)

(Andrew Rush/Pittsburgh Post-Dispatch/TNS)

TNS

TNS

(Andrew Rush/Pittsburgh Post-Dispatch/TNS)

More than half of Illinois voters believe human activity is to blame for global warming rather than natural climate cycles, according to a new poll.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIU surveyed 1,000 registered voters between Sept. 27 and Oct. 2, and found 57 percent think Earth is warming because of human activities like burning fossil fuels, while 25 percent cited natural environmental patterns. Another 12 percent said there is no solid evidence of global warming.

Pollsters also asked voters whether the environment should be prioritized even at the cost of economic growth. Sixty-four percent said protecting the environment should take priority, compared to 27 percent who believe growing the economy is more important.

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The Simon Poll found 82 percent of liberal voters believe climate change is caused by humans, and 80 percent think protecting the environment should be prioritized over economic growth. While only 28 percent of conservative voters attribute climate change to human activity, they were split when asked about priorities, with 44 percent saying the environment and 43 percent the economy.

Among some of the key findings were the differences in opinions across age groups.

About 66 percent of voters under the age of 50 think humans are the causing the Earth to get warmer, compared to 55 percent of respondents between the ages of 51 and 65. At 47 percent, those over the age of 66 are the least likely to blame human activity.

“Gen X-ers and millennials have grown up with environmental awareness campaigns and this is clear in the results,” said Shiloh Deitz, a researcher at the Simon Institute. “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.”

Interestingly, nearly half of Republican/conservative voters under 50 believe climate change is caused by humans, compared to just 25 percent who are over 50. When GOP voters in those age groups were asked about prioritizing the environment or economy, the responses were 62 percent and 41 percent, respectively — a trend that seems to indicate Republicans soon could become more friendly toward the environment.

The margin of error for the entire sample of 1,000 voters is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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