Nature and Biodiversity

Is the environment or economy a bigger priority? A view from the US

An aerial view of trees in a forest

Public opinion on the environment versus the economy has shifted over the years. Image: Unsplash/John O'Nolan

Martin Armstrong
Data Journalist, Statista
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  • Data shows how US attitudes on whether to prioritize the environment or the economy has changed over time.
  • The chart below shows how public opinion has shifted.

The battle in the minds of people in the U.S. between prioritizing the environment (even at the risk of curbing economic growth) or the economy (even if the environment suffers), has been a bit of a rollercoaster over the last few decades. As Gallup survey data shows, back in the 80's and 90's, the environment was the clear winner in this moral dilemma when looked at nationally. This however, started to change as the new millennium commenced.

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As our infographic illustrates, the struggle in the U.S. between the two really came to a head as the effects of the 2008 financial crisis started to bite. In March 2009, the economy had shifted to the forefront of most people's minds, with a majority (51 percent) choosing the economy as a priority, compared to 42 percent favoring the environment. Mother Earth did eventually start to gain control over American hearts and minds again between 2015 and 2019, but the Covid-19 pandemic appears to have shifted the balance once again in 2020 and 2021.

An infographic showing the share of U.S. adults that think the environment should be prioritized over the economy and vice versa
During the 2008 financial crisis the economy become to desired to be prioritized over the environment more Image: Statista/Gallup
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversityEconomic Growth
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