Californians pessimistic about any progress on environment

By Colleen Valees, The Associated Press
Friday June 28, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — Californians don’t think there’s been much progress in solving environmental problems in the last two decades, and they’re pessimistic about any progress being made, according to a recent survey. 

The nonprofit Public Policy Institute of California study released Thursday shows about 78 percent of Californians believe there has been “some” or “hardly any” progress since the 1980s. And 79 percent have “some” or “hardly any” optimism that environmental problems will be under control in the next 20 years. 

Most residents say they’re satisfied with environmental quality in their region, but 51 percent believe it’s getting worse, while 27 percent believe it’s improving. 

“I think the most important finding is that environmental concern and interest among Californians continues to be very strong despite the downturn in the economy and the state’s budget crisis,” said Mark Baldassare, a senior fellow at the institute and survey director. 

The study also shows that respondents did not have much confidence in President Bush or Gov. Gray Davis working to improve the environment. Only 39 percent of Californians approved of the president’s handling of environmental issues and fewer — 35 percent — approved of the job Davis was doing. 

But Davis spokesman David Chai defended the governor’s record on the environment. 

“Under his watch, the fact is that our water is purer and our air is cleaner and our land is certainly better protected,” Chai said. “He’s done more for the environment than any other governor in the last 20 years in the state of California.” 

About 34 percent of respondents said air pollution was the most important concern they had, followed by 13 percent citing growth and development. Water, ocean and beach pollution ranked third at 12 percent and 9 percent of respondents said water supply was the most important issue facing the state. 

The survey also shows that 53 percent of state residents say they know they must make lifestyle changes to solve environmental problems. Sixty-four percent say stricter environmental laws are necessary despite any effect on the economy, but 31 percent say the cost in jobs and the toll on the economy would be too high. 

Also, about 58 percent of respondents said that poorer neighborhoods are more likely to be polluted by toxic waste and to house polluting facilities. 

The institute polled 2,029 adult residents of California by telephone between May 28 and June 4, in English and Spanish. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points. 


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