Majority leave environmental concerns behind at the ballot box

Most Americans want tough laws protecting air, land, and water — but only about 1 in 5 say environmental issues have been a major influence on how they vote. According to a new survey, these numbers hold up across party lines, with 74 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Democrats backing stronger environmental standards. But the environment ranked last on a list of nine issues that swayed actual votes — trounced by the economy and jobs, health care, the war in Iraq, terrorism, and moral values, among others. Asked why they didn’t vote their green beliefs, folks opined that there was progress being made on eco-issues, and that things weren’t as bad as they used to be. Most said other matters are more urgent — apparently global warming is a snoozer — and they believed dealing with environmental issues might increase taxes or hurt the economy. “There is a clear disconnect here,” said William K. Reilly, former U.S. EPA head and chair of the advisory board of Duke University’s Nicholas Institute, which commissioned the survey.