Environmental Protection

New Poll Finds Americans Want Less Population Growth 40 years After Government Called for Stabilization

Forty years after a multi-year bi-partisan government commission recommended slowing U.S. population growth and eventually stabilizing, Americans still would like to see it happen, according to poll results to be released this weekend at the 2012 Earth Day Dallas festival.

"On the 40th anniversary of that landmark event in the early environmental movement, we wanted to know if Americans today share that commission's conclusion that massive U.S. population growth is harmful to the environment and unwanted by the citizenry," said Roy Beck, president of the NumbersUSA Education & Research Foundation which commissioned the national poll by Dallas-based Pulse Opinion Research.

The new poll found that Americans aren't happy that the population has never stopped expanding (from just over 200 million in 1970 to more than 300 million); 52 percent say the extra 100 million has damaged the environment, contrasted to 6 percent who say it brought improvement.

  • The new poll found only 10 percent of U.S. voters approve the current rate of growth that the Census Bureau states will double U.S. population from 313 million today to over 600 million by the end of the century.
  • Given two other options, 35 percent of Americans chose cutting the rate of growth in half, and 46 percent said they would prefer no more population growth at all.
  • Of the nearly half of Americans who want no more population growth, one of four said they would like to see the population slowly become smaller to the 250 million size of 1990, and one of six preferred the 200 million size of 1970.

The misgivings shown by Americans today are similar to what Americans indicated in a national poll by "The Commission on Population Growth and the American Future," which was created just before the first Earth Day (1970) and issued its final report in spring of 1972. Leaders from labor, business, civil rights and environmental activists, religion and academe contributed to the report.

  • The 1972 poll found 57 percent of Americans believed U.S. population growth was environmentally harmful.
  • 66 percent disapproved of adding another 100 million people.
  • 56 percent said government should try to do something to slow down population growth.
  • 57 percent said people should limit the size of their families even though they can afford a large number of children.
  • 50 percent said the number of immigrants should be reduced, with only 3 percent saying the numbers should increase.
  • "Census data show that our population would be stabilizing at around 250 million if the American people had controlled things, given that their average family size has been at a zero-population-growth level ever since 1972," said Beck, who as one of the nation's first environment-beat journalists reported on the population debates in the late 1960s and 1970s. "Successive Congresses have adopted immigration increases that only 3 percent of Americans wanted in 1972. They have tripled immigration numbers and created a level of population growth that two-thirds of Americans said they opposed. Despite near-silence about population issues in the public discussions of our present era, this 40th anniversary poll shows that Americans still solidly oppose their government forcing major population growth on them."

Other findings in the new poll:

  • 68 percent of voters said immigration should be reduced in order to slow U.S. population growth; 19 percent prefer to keep immigration the same and let it double the U.S. population; 4 percent prefer increasing immigration so that population would more than double this century.
  • The poll informed respondents that "current levels of immigration could continue without causing population growth if Americans would cut their average family size from two children to one. Just 9 percent of Americans said that would be a good idea.
  • 71 percent said that if the population in the area where they live doubles along with the national doubling projected by the Census Bureau, the quality of life in their area would worsen.
  • The expectation of worsening from population doubling was found in the overwhelming majority of voters in every region of the country and regardless of whether people live in a large, medium or small city, a suburb, a town or rural area. It also was found at similar levels across all religious, income, age, political party and ideology groupings.
  • Hispanic voters were similar to all other voters in their opposition to high population growth and in preference for a stabilizing population size.
  • The national telephone survey of 1,000 adults was conducted by Pulse Opinion Research in April, 2012. Pulse Opinion Research, LLC is an independent public opinion research firm using automated polling methodology and procedures licensed from Rasmussen Reports, LLC. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 3 percent percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.
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