Latest Pace Poll Finds Complacency on Environmental Issues

Contacts: Kristi Henderson, 212-481-7000
or Christopher T. Cory, 212-346-1117, cell 917-608-8164

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE AFTER 12:01 AM THURSDAY, JUNE 9
To view the complete survey report and topline data visit http://www.pace.edu/PacePoll.
Cronin and Trichter are available for comment.

NEW PACE POLL FINDS GROWING COMPLACENCY
ON HUDSON RIVER ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Survey shows widespread misinformation about pollution
and unexpected support for development

New York, NY June 9, 2005 – Although the modern environmental movement was born along the shores of the Hudson River, a new survey by The Pace Poll in conjunction with The Pace Academy for the Environment at Pace University finds the region’s environmental consciousness submerged beneath a flood of other issues.

The poll surveyed residents living in the 17 counties along the Hudson’s 315 mile length from Essex County, NY to Manhattan.

“A new complacency is overtaking public opinion about the Hudson River,” said John Cronin, the Hudson’s first Riverkeeper who now is Director of the Pace Academy for the Environment. “It is a disturbing trend that if left alone will prove catastrophic for the river’s future.”

Complacency
Environmental matters are not a top-of-mind concern for these New Yorkers, the survey finds. Asked to name the most important issue or problem facing their area, more residents volunteer jobs and the economy (17%), taxes (16%), education and schools (14%), and affordable housing (10%) than the environment (5%).

Moreover, residents are satisfied with their local environment. A majority (55%) rates their local environment either “very good” (47%) or “excellent” (8%), while only 44% say it is “only fair” (30%) or “poor” (14%).

More than three quarters (76%) think they help the environment more than hurt it. And 52% deem themselves environmentalists, although only 16% are members of an environmental group.

Residents ages 18 to 24 are less likely than other groups to regard the environment as critically important. This surprised the researchers. “As events like Love Canal and Three Mile Island fade from memory, younger people may see environmentalism as just another historical movement, like Temperance, that has little effect on their lives,” said Jonathan Trichter, Director of The Pace Poll.

Misperceptions
Regional environmental complacency may partly be the result of a misperception. Fully 84% of these residents think it is illegal to dump pollutants into the Hudson River. (In fact, dumping is merely regulated, not outlawed.) When asked what the law should be, 96% of the region’s residents think dumping should always be illegal.

“Ironically, a generation of stunning victories by Hudson River environmental organizations may have created an air of unreality for a new generation of citizens,” said Cronin. “The unexpected support for industrial development may suggest people believe environmental battles will be fought for them.”

Environmental ambivalence
When asked about making sacrifices for the environment, only cost-saving measures, like buying more fuel efficient cars or commuting, fare well. Residents are lukewarm to using air conditioners less often in summer, skittish about carpooling, and unenthusiastic about raising taxes to preserve open space.

Asked about the Hudson’s shorelines, a majority (53%) supports some new industrial development there. Only 43% think the shoreline should be closed to such development.

PCBs run through it
Yet a majority (56%) of residents along the Hudson rates the river’s condition “only fair” (36%) or “poor” (20%). In contrast, only 30% rate it “excellent” (2%) or “good” (28%). Few want to swim in the river – 19% think swimming is safe; 71% think it is not. Fewer still want to eat fish caught in the river – only 11% think such fish are safe.

That might change – residents are twice as likely to believe the Hudson’s quality is improving (35%) as to believe it is deteriorating (16%); 34% think it is staying the same. But optimism only goes so far. Residents are split on whether the river will ever be safe for swimming –38% think it will be someday; 37% think it will never be.

Residents favor removing the PCBs dumped in the river (54%) rather than leaving them in place (34%). Yet half (50%) think the PCBs will never be removed; only 35% think they will be.

Residents are split on whether nuclear power is a good idea (43%) or a bad idea (47%) for New York State. And concern about the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant scores near the bottom of eight environmental issues tested. “Since New Yorkers along the river are the most likely to be endangered by an accident or a terrorist strike at Indian Point, it’s notable that there isn’t more measurable anxiety connected to the plant,” said Trichter.

Pace Poll, Pace Academy for the Environment
The findings come from a Pace Poll survey of 608 New Yorkers (margin of error ± 4%) conducted between May 19, 2005 and May 27, 2005 in Albany, Bronx, Columbia, Dutchess, Essex, Greene, Hamilton, New York, Orange, Putnam, Rensselaer, Rockland, Saratoga, Ulster, Warren, Washington, and Westchester counties. The full survey analysis includes findings by demographic subgroups, such as political party membership and economic status.

The Pace Poll is an interdisciplinary initiative backed by the resources of Pace University and is part of Pace’s civic commitment to advance responsible discussion of current affairs. Launched by President David A. Caputo, The Poll has conducted signal studies on downtown Manhattan residents’ response to Lower Manhattan rebuilding, New York City residents’ social capital and civic participation, statewide perceptions of Albany reform, and newly-registered voters in the 2004 Presidential Election.

The Pace Academy for the Environment was founded to advance the role of higher education in environmental affairs. In cooperation with the Rivers and Estuaries Center on the Hudson, the Pace Academy organized the Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges and Universities, home to 40 member institutions dedicated to cooperative, interdisciplinary education and research. This July the Pace Academy is helping launch River Summer, a faculty education program that is sending 25 professors from 15 institutions on a three-week trip down the Hudson River. The Pace Academy also has sponsored innovative workshops on interdisciplinary education and real-time monitoring on the Hudson, and currently is involved in the design of a Hudson River-based teacher training institute. It also is active in other parts of the nation, lending assistance to colleges and universities interested in launching similar initiatives.

Pace is a private university in the New York Metropolitan area with a growing national reputation for offering students opportunity, teaching and learning based on research, civic involvement and measurable outcomes. It is one of the ten founders of Project Pericles, developing education that encourages lifelong participation in democratic processes.

Pace has seven campuses, including downtown and midtown New York City, Pleasantville, Briarcliff, White Plains (a graduate center and law school), and a Hudson Valley Center near Newburgh, N.Y. Approximately 14,000 students are enrolled in undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs in the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, Lubin School of Business, School of Computer Science and Information Systems, School of Education, Lienhard School of Nursing and Pace Law School. www.pace.edu.

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