Washington People want their leaders to move boldly to help the environment but give them dismal grades for their actions so far, according to a poll released Wednesday that highlighted rampant pessimism on the issue.
Only about one in five voiced approval of how President Bush, Congress and U.S. businesses have been handling the environment. And while decisive majorities said they want strong public and private action, fewer than one in 10 said they had seen such steps in the past year, according to the poll by The Associated Press and Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment.
The survey, conducted days before Bush was convening an international climate conference in Washington, showed that though Democrats and independents were consistently more critical than Republicans, anxiety is widespread over the environment and global warming.
"I don't understand why we're letting people destroy the Earth the way we are," said Jerry Menees, 34, an independent voter and truck driver from Potosi, Mo. "It scares me what this world is coming to."
Only about a fifth think the environment is in good or excellent shape, including 39 percent of Republicans. Just over one in 10 think it is faring better than a decade ago or will improve a decade from now, while about eight in 10 say global warming is under way - views that were broadly shared across party lines.
The 84 percent who believe world temperatures are rising is virtually unchanged since Stanford and ABC News conducted a similar poll in March 2006. But while 45 percent of that group said in 2006 they were very or extremely sure, 61 percent said so in this month's survey - including most Democrats and independents and a sizable 39 percent of Republicans.
On the other hand, of the 14 percent who said global temperatures are probably not rising, nearly half say they are very or extremely sure - up from the roughly one-third who felt that strongly last year.
"I don't understand how they can say there is global warming or man causes it when it's a natural cycle of the planet," said Russell Marshall, 34, a student from Enid, Okla., and a Republican. "It's like the planet cleanses itself from time to time by changing temperature."
In some of the starkest partisan differences, Democrats and independents strongly disapprove of Bush's performance on the environment, while Republicans approve by 50 percent to 18 percent. Republicans were also likelier to think Bush and business have caused little harm.
The poll was conducted before this week's meeting of world leaders at the U.N. designed to spark momentum for international talks in December on further limiting emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that cause global warming.