Albion Monitor /News

Don't Cut EPA, Public Tells GOP

by Jeff Elliott

Strong support for EPA across party lines

Americans overwhelmingly want strong environmental protection, and many are prepared to vote against members of Congress who weaken those safeguards, according to two recent polls.

In a nationwide survey released last month, 86 percent of Americans said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is as important as when it was founded in 1970. More than half believed there is an even greater need for the agency today.

Support for the EPA crossed party lines, with 46 percent of Republicans saying there was a greater need. This was not far behind the roughly 60 percent of Democrats and Independents who also felt that the EPA is needed more.

Only 13 percent of those interviewed said the need for the agency has lessened in the past quarter century.

An increased public concern about environmental health risks

The poll, conducted by Louis Harris and Associates, reflected a growing awareness of actions that can be taken individually. Three out of four thought that recycling and conserving water can make a "big difference" in the quality of the environment.

Also shown in the survey was an increased public concern about environmental health risks. More than half of the public believes there is at least some danger from known or suspected toxics and sources of pollution:

How much health risk do you think there is in: A great
at all
Living near hazwaste site82%15%3%0.5%
Living near factory / industrial area464482
Living near high traffic area4145103
Garden chemicals4043143
Living near power lines or a transmission station3141208
Drinking tap water19442511

"Our party is out of synch with mainstream American opinion"

The Harris poll illustrated that the Republican leadership in Congress has lost touch with voters. The same week in early December when the survey appeared, House Republicans tried again to slash EPA funding, particularly for enforcement and cleanup.

Another survey, conducted on behalf of Republican members of Congress, found 46 percent of GOP voters would not re-elect Representatives who supported EPA budget cuts. This is exactly the same percentage as found in the other poll supporting strong environmental protections.

"Our party is out of synch with mainstream American opinion," Republican pollster Linda DiVall told her Congressional clients last week.

In response to DiVall's comments, some in the House blamed the Clinton administration for their popularity woes. "What is out of synch is the distortion of our record by the administration and by radical environmental groups who want to continue to over-regulate the economy," House Republican Conference leader John Boehner (Ohio) told the New York Times.

But other House Republicans wrote to Speaker Gingrich last week, asking him to back off attacking the EPA in continuing budget talks.

In a letter drafted by Sherwood Boehlert (R - New York), the group of 30 Republican moderates said, "if the party is to resuscitate its reputation in this important area, we cannot be seen as using the budget crisis as an excuse to emasculate environmental protection."

The DiVall survey also found that 55 percent of Republicans do not trust their own party to protect the environment. By contrast, 72 percent of Democrats trust their party.

Albion Monitor January 31, 1996 (

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