Matchup: Environmental Protection Vs. Economic Growth

Oct 14, 2016

Credit Helping Others Maintain Environmental Standards

Economic growth. Or the environment. Pollsters at Southern Illinois University's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute put them head to head.  Read on to hear which came out on top.

Illinois lawmakers talk a lot about the importance of growing the state's economy.

But 64-percent of a thousand registered voters say protecting the environment should be a higher priority; only 27-percent say growth should come first, even if it's at the expense of the earth.

Illinois Environmental Council director Jennifer Walling admits that result took her somewhat by surprise.

Walling says her organization is focused on both objectives. Take clean energy: the Environmental Council is part of a group called the Renewable Jobs Coalition.

"We're proposing a bill in Springfield that will offer 32,000 jobs created and maintained, on average, by 2030. We're also working a lot on local and sustainable agriculture."

She says that can keep jobs in Illinois by keeping dollars spent on food in-state.

Liberals and younger voters were more apt to blame climate change on human activity than natural patterns. Younger Republicans also share that belief, leading pollsters to speculate that the Republican Party could become more environmentalist in the future.

"There is a stark contrast of these opinions across age groups. Gen X-ers and millennials have grown up with environmental awareness campaigns and this is clear in the results,” Shiloh Deitz, a researcher at the Institute, said in a press release. “Younger people are most likely to see climate change as a result of human activity and want to prioritize environmental preservation even at the cost of economic growth.”