, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 255-268

The changing face of public concern about pollution in the United States: A case study of New Jersey

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Abstract

National surveys and a survey conducted by the authors in March and April 2004 revealed that the public’s concerns about air, water and land pollution have declined during the last four years in the United States and more specifically in the State of New Jersey. In New Jersey pollution remains a major concern of most residents, even during a period of a war, anxiety about terrorism and the economy. Those most anxious about pollution do not believe that government is doing enough to protect the environment, want to maintain current environmental laws, and are worried about the future. Disproportionately they are African and White Americans, middle income, and college graduates, in other words, part of the American mainstream.

Direct attempts to weaken environmental protection are likely to be resisted by this core of the population, which does not trust current federal, state and local governments to protect the environment. We expect concerns for the environment to continue and yet change as production processes in the United States continue a trend toward pollution prevention, and we wait for the public’s mental models to catch up with this evolving reality.