Nine In Ten Americans Believe Biodiversity Is Important To Human Beings

NEW YORK , N.Y. – December 16, 2014 –December 28 marks the anniversary of Richard Nixon signing the Endangered Species Act (ESA) into law. It’s been four decades since the 1973 signing, but a recent report from World Wildlife Fund indicating that [between 1970 and 2010], population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half points to a continued need to protect wildlife species.

When The Harris Poll asked American adults whether they were aware of these findings from WWF, one quarter (25%) affirmed that they had. Other recent environmental announcements earned the same or similar awareness levels, such as:

  • The Pentagon’s announcement that climate change represents an immediate threat to national security (25%)
  • The announcement by NASA that Antarctic sea ice extent reached a record high in September (25%)
  • The EPA’s announcement that average fuel economy for cars and trucks available in the U.S. has hit a record high (24%)

Over half of Americans (56%) are aware that California recently became the first state to ban single-use plastic bags.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,205 U.S. adults surveyed online between October 15 and 20, 2014.

Biodiversity

Though the relatively low awareness of the WWF’s report might lead some to assume that Americans don’t feel this issue affects humans, 90% of adults do believe that variety of life forms on earth, also known as biodiversity, is important to the well-being of humans, with 50% believing it is very important. Moreover, nine in ten American adults (91%) also believe biodiversity is important to the overall earth’s well-being, with over half (55%) feeling it is very important.

  • Opinions change along political alignments, with Democrats and Independents more convinced than Republicans that biodiversity is very important to the well-being of human beings (57% & 54% vs. 38% respectively) and the earth overall (60% & 61% vs. 43% respectively).

Are we to blame?

As for whether or not American adults believe human behavior is the primary cause of the aforementioned decline in the world’s wildlife population, 86% consider this likely, with 49% believing it is very likely.

  • While majorities across political parties acknowledge that human behavior is likely to blame (93% Democrats, 86% Independent, 76% Republicans), only majorities of Democrats and Independents perceive it to very likely be the cause. Fifty-nine percent of Democrats believe the decline in the earth’s wildlife populations is very likely the fault of human behavior, followed closely by 50% of Independents, while 34% of Republicans feel this way.

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TABLE 1

AWARENESS OF RECENT ENVIRONMENTAL ANNOUNCEMENTS

by Generation, Gender & Political Party

Which, if any, of the following recent announcements were you aware of? Please select all that apply.

Base: U.S. Adults

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Political Party

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

Male

Female

Rep

Dem

Ind

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

California’s decision to become the first state to ban single-use plastic bags

56

44

51

62

80

58

55

59

56

60

The Pentagon’s announcement that climate change represents an immediate threat to national security

25

21

22

27

39

31

20

22

31

26

Announcement by NASA that Antarctic sea ice extent reached a record high in September

25

21

23

26

37

29

22

21

28

28

Announcement by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) that the Earth has lost half of its wildlife population over the past 40 years

25

26

23

23

27

26

23

13

33

27

The EPA’s announcement that average fuel economy for cars and trucks available in the U.S. has hit a record high

24

20

23

26

35

30

20

25

25

26

None of these

31

37

36

28

13

28

33

30

31

24

 

 

 

TABLE 2

LIKELIHOOD HUMAN BEHAVIOR IS THE PRIMARY CAUSE OF WILDLIFE POPULATION DECLINE

by Political Party

Regardless of whether you were aware of the announcement regarding drops in the Earth’s wildlife population prior to this survey, how likely or unlikely do you believe it is that human behavior is the primary cause of this decline in wildlife population?

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Political Party

Rep

Dem

Ind

%

%

%

%

Likely (NET)

86

76

93

86

Very likely

49

34

59

50

Somewhat likely

37

42

34

36

Not Likely (NET)

14

24

7

14

Not very likely

10

17

5

10

Not at all likely

4

7

1

4

 

TABLE 3

IMPORTANCE OF BIODIVERSITY TO THE WELL-BEING OF HUMAN BEINGS

by Political Party

How important, if at all, do you believe variety of life forms on Earth (also known as biodiversity) is to the well-being of human beings?

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Political Party

Rep

Dem

Ind

%

%

%

%

Important (NET)

90

86

93

91

Very important

50

38

57

54

Somewhat important

40

48

36

37

Not Important (NET)

10

14

7

9

Not very important

8

12

4

8

Not at all important

2

2

2

1

 

 

TABLE 4

IMPORTANCE OF BIODIVERSITY TO THE WELL-BEING OF THE EARTH OVERALL

by Political Party

And how important, if at all, do you believe biodiversity is to the well-being of the Earth overall?

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Political Party

Rep

Dem

Ind

%

%

%

%

Important (NET)

91

87

92

92

Very important

55

43

60

61

Somewhat important

36

44

32

32

Not Important (NET)

9

13

8

8

Not very important

7

11

5

6

Not at all important

2

2

2

2

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between October 15 and 20, 2014 among 2,205 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #111, December 16, 2014

By Hannah Pollack, Harris Poll Research Analyst

About The Harris Poll®

Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. For more information, or to see other recent polls, visit the Harris Poll News Room.