The Texas Environmental Survey–1994

Contact: Michael Cinelli
Phone: (713) 831-4794

The Texas Environmental Survey-1994

Most Texans continue to believe that
greater efforts should be made to protect the environment, and they
are willing to make some economic sacrifices to do so, despite their
increased support in the last national election for candidates
running against government programs.

These are among the findings of the third biennial statewide”Texas Environmental Survey,” conducted by the Rice University
Department of Sociology and sponsored this year by the Southwestern
Bell Foundation.

Directed by Rice University Sociology Professor Stephen L.
Klineberg, the December 1994 survey found that the strength of
environmental concerns among Texans is generally somewhat lower
today than when measured by the same questions in surveys conducted
in 1992 and 1990. Klineberg said this lessening of environmentally
proactive sentiment was in keeping with the anti-government mood of
the elections and with the relative lack of media attention paid to
environmental issues during the past few years.

“But the commitment to environmental protection remains
surprisingly strong in Texas,” he said. “The anti-government mood
clearly does not extend to support for reducing government efforts
in this area.

“On every question pitting environmental protection against
economic interests. Texans in the survey continued to come down
decisively on the side of the environment, but they did so to a
lesser extent than in surveys two and four years ago.”

By 42 percent, a plurality still believe that too little is
being spent on environmental protection (but 56 percent believed
that in 1992 and 65 percent in 1990). By 52 to 39 percent, they
continue to disagree with the suggestion that pollution control
measures are unfair to industry (but 60 percent disagreed in 1992
and 71 percent in 1990).

On most other issues, there were no changes at all. By the same
figures of 56 percent to 37 percent, Texans called again this year
for spending more to set aside and protect wilderness areas for
endangered species in Texas. By 54 percent to 40 percent they were
still prepared, if necessary, to pay $200 more each year for their
purchases if that is the result of new pollution controls.

And in a question about the “takings” issue, asked for the first
time this year, Texans were clear (by 64 percent) that “some
restrictions on property rights are justified to protect important
aspects of the environment.” Only 32 percent agreed instead that”landowners have the right to do whatever they want with their

In one area in particular, however, Texans consistently reject
an environmental initiative. Fully 64 percent of all residents in
this automobile-dependent state (it was 61 percent and 62 percent in
the previous surveys) continued to oppose higher gasoline taxes.

By 61 percent to 31 percent, respondents agreed that development
projects often produce disastrous results for the environment, and
70 percent to 24 percent disagreed with the statement, “we are not
harming the environment when we do normal things, like driving cars
and running air conditioners.” By 54 percent to 43 percent, survey
respondents disagreed with the suggestion that “people worry too
much about threats to the global environment.”

When asked about specific government actions, 71 percent want a
law requiring trash recycling, 72 percent believe stronger
regulations are needed to control industrial pollution, and 51
percent favor new taxes on coal and oil consumption to reduce
greenhouse emissions.

This same group of respondents, however, agreed by 73 percent to
24 percent that “government interferes too much in our daily lives.”
And 55 percent believed that government is trying to do too many
things that should be left to individuals; only 40 percent agreed
instead that government should do more to solve the country’s

Among those who voted in the November election, 48 percent said
they voted primarily for Republican candidates, compared to 33
percent who supported the Democrats. Yet 57 percent of these
Republican voters rejected the suggestion that “we should think of
jobs first and pollution second.” Fully 81 percent of Republican
voters were opposed to locating a new plant in their area that would
create a thousand jobs but also increase pollution, and 54 percent
disagreed with the suggestion that government regulations are unfair
to industry.

Fewer respondents than in previous surveys thought that
pollution was a serious problem in their communities. And less than
15 percent of the survey respondents said that they or a family
member had ever personally suffered any serious negative effects
from an environmental problem.

This makes the continued concern for the environment among
Texans all the more surprising, Klineberg said. It persists despite
the fact that environmental problems rarely impact individuals in
their immediate surroundings and despite the declining attention
being paid to the environment in electoral campaigns and the media.

Klineberg said he expects to conduct the next statewide
environmental survey in December of 1996.


Professor Stephen L. Klineberg
Department of Sociology
Rice University
P. O. Box 1892
Houston TX 77251
Phone: (713) 527-4831, or 665-2010.


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