Average Americans vs. Environmentalists

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Average Americans vs. Environmentalists American Enterprise magazine (May/June 1999) carried an article by Karl Zinsmeister, titled "Environmentalists vs. Scientists." It's mostly a report on research published by two academics Stanley Rothman and Robert Lichter in their book titled Environmental Cancer: A Political Disease. The authors surveyed a cross-section of environmental leaders at organizations such as National Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Nature Conservancy and the National Audubon Society. Identically worded survey questions were administered to different groups of scientists. Among the groups surveyed was the American Association for Cancer Research, whose members are specialists in carcinogenesis or epidemiology. It turns out that scientists and environmentalists hold markedly different views. Sixty-seven percent of cancer specialists believe there's no cancer epidemic while only 27 percent of environmental activists hold the same view. Only twenty-seven percent of cancer specialists agree with the statement "industry causes rising cancer rates", while 64 percent of environmentalists do. The scientists didn't trust the media. Only 22 percent of cancer specialists consider the New York Times' reporting on cancer topics to be trustworthy and only six percent found the TV network news to be so. When 400 climatologists, oceanographers and atmospheric scientists were asked whether evidence supports the "greenhouse effect" theory, 41 percent agreed compared to 66 percent of environmentalists. Similarly, 51 percent of energy scientists say nuclear power plants are safe compared to only 10 percent of environmentalists. Environmentalists not only differ from scientists but are markedly different from the general public as well. Environmental activists are a narrow elite: 76 percent are male, 97 percent are white and a third have incomes over $100,000. They are unrepresentative of America politically as well. Sixty-three percent describe themselves as liberals compared to 18 percent of the general public. Only six percent are Republicans; ten times as many are Democrats. To the question, "I'd fight for my country, right or wrong," 57 percent of all Americans answered yes while only 9 percent of environmentalists said yes. Environmentalists support causes like race quotas, abortion-on-demand and homosexual rights at rates of 70 to 80 percent, versus 34 to 40 percent of the general public. Rothman and Licther summarized, "Although most Americans are willing to describe themselves as environmentalists, from these data it seems clear that environmental activists do not speak for the public. . . . The perspective and background of this movement's leadership are considerably removed from those of the majority.
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