Synthesis of public opinion on water
Looking across polls and based on interviews with pollsters, we have synthesized the following findings from public opinion research on water.
- Drought, floods, and cases of contaminated water are some of the primary events that shift public opinion on water.
- Among environmental concerns, water pollution has been at the top of Americans’ worries for decades; concern has increased recently, possibly due to the Flint crisis and California drought.
- Non-white and lower-income Americans have expressed especially high levels of concern about water.
- In California and other Western states, worries about water have sometimes eclipsed concerns about the economy and unemployment in recent polls.
- Water pollution is near the top of Americans’ fears and Americans say contaminated water is as serious a health problem as heroin abuse.
- Around the globe and the nation, people see drought and other water issues as the most worrisome impacts of climate change.
- A majority of Americans believe climate change is already impacting the water supply.
- Most Americans link climate change and the increasing severity of storms and hurricanes.
- Democratic voters are much more likely to believe in human-caused climate change, but many Republicans agree that the weather is getting more extreme and unpredictable.
- As with many public policy issues, there is a partisan divide in opinion on water, but it is less extreme than divisions over climate change and some other environmental problems.
- In general, Americans and Westerners prefer conservation and efficiency measures over building new dams and water works.
- People say they’re willing to make changes in their daily lives to reduce water use and to pay for upgrades to water infrastructure.
- Views of recycled water depend heavily on how that water is eventually used, with support for irrigation with treated wastewater much greater than using such water for potable supplies.
- Americans may be unsure of their water source, but virtually everyone understands the need for clean water and how events such as droughts and contamination can impact supplies.
- Although wary of rate increases, many people say they’re willing to pay a small, extra amount on their water bill to ensure clean water supplies.
- There is bipartisan support for reforming flood policies by improving preparedness and mitigating risks.
- Westerners are deeply concerned about their water supply, but there are important variations across the sprawling region.
- Western voters generally believe there is enough water to supply various uses, including cities, agriculture, industry, and the environment.
- Efforts to improve water efficiency, recycle water, and protect watersheds tend to poll better than changing water laws or promoting water markets.