Environmental poll compares attitudes of boomers & internet generation

provided by Environmental Defense

nvironmental Defense released wide-ranging poll findings last month comparing environmental attitudes of young adults (500 18-25 year-olds), with those of the Baby Boom generation who came of age around the first Earth Day (500 45-55 year-olds) in 1970. Highlighting differences and similarities between the generations, the results provide reasons for both hope and concern about the next thirty years of environmental protection. The poll, conducted by SWR Worldwide, has an error margin of 4.5%.

A majority of both generations believe environmental conditions to be worse today than thirty years ago, and the younger generation is remarkably skeptical about past progress, with 62% believing conditions are worse today and only 29% seeing conditions as better. The view of the 45-55 year-old group is more balanced, yet still negative, with 52% seeing things as worse and 45% better.

On the more specific question of air and water pollution (both of which rank at the top of each group's environmental concerns) both groups believe by wide margins that conditions continue to get worse (Young: worse 71%/better 25%; Boomers: worse 62%/better 36%).

In a set of answers providing more hope for the future, the two generations believe individual action and public education can be powerful methods of tackling environmental problems. Among 18 to 25 year-olds, 87% say individual action by all of us and education of the public about environmental problems and solutions are the most effective approaches. 84% of Boomers believe that individual action is effective, and 88% believe public education can help address environmental issues. Both groups refused to accept the proposition that environmental problems are so big that individuals can't make much of a difference (Young: can make difference 65%/can't 34%; Boomers: can make difference 64%/can't 36%).

In addition, an overwhelming majority of Americans ages 18 to 25 (85%) and Boomers (67%) indicated use of the internet for activities other than email, with approximately one-third going on line at least once a day. While a little less than one-in-three within each generation has, to date, searched the internet for environmental information, a strong majority in both groups believes that the World Wide Web will have a positive effect on the environment (Young: positive 60%/negative 9%; Boomers: positive 55%/negative 5%).

Clear majorities of both generations have participated in an Earth Day event (Young: 62%; Boomers: 54%), and believe that Earth Day activities have helped to make them more aware of environmental issues (Y: 69%; B: 64%).

Environmental groups enjoy, by far, the highest level of confidence of both generations among groups and individuals tested. The ratings are as follows (with total confidence rating for each group or individual to do the right thing for the environment followed by ratings for "a lot" of confidence in parentheses):

Group  Ages 18-25  Ages 45-55 
95%  (69%) 92% (52%) 
Industry  74% (12%)  80% ( 9%) 
Democrats  74% (12%)  74% (11%) 
Congress  72% ( 9%)  79% ( 8%) 
Republicans  59% ( 7%)  64% ( 9%) 

"We undertook this effort expecting to find significant differences between the generations," said Fred Krupp, executive director of Environmental Defense. "And while those exist, we were struck more by the similarities. Baby Boomers and the Internet Generation share the same concerns about the environment and agree that individual actions can make the difference when it comes to protecting the planet. A clear challenge for the next thirty years is finding the ways through the internet and other means to engage these individuals on behalf of the planet."

Environmental Defense, a leading national nonprofit organization based in New York, represents more than 300,000 members. Since 1967, they have linked science, economics, and law to create innovative, equitable, and cost-effective solutions to the most urgent environmental problems.