all images: Gallup
For the first time in the ten years that they've asked the question, Gallup reports that more Americans favor expanding energy production via fossil fuels even if it harms the environment. As you can see in the image above, in 2009 it was more or less an even split then (and frankly opinion hasn't been hugely divergent since 2001), but in 2010 half of people surveyed favored expanded energy production while just about 2 out of five favored environmental protection over more conventional supplies of energy. Gallup says the shift has been evident "among nearly every major demographic subgroup," though self-identified liberals remain "relatively steadfast" in supporting environmental protection as the higher priority.
Conservation Continues to be Favored over Expanded Production
That said, Americans continue to favor greater individual conservation over expanding production (as the image below shows), though the gap is narrowing. The latest poll shows that about half of Americans favor more conservation of existing energy supplies over expanding production, with slightly over one third favoring expanding production of fossil fuels. This is down from the greatest split, in 2007, where 64% favored conservation over expanded production and 26% had the opposite opinion.
As for the reason in the changing attitudes, Gallup falls back on the logic that environmental protection typically falls out of favor with Americans in harder economic times.
The poll was conducted via telephone interviews from March 4-7, 2010.
More on Americans' Environmental Attitudes:
Americans' Attitudes Cool Towards Global Warming - Less Than Half Now Think Humans Responsible
Americans Support Strong Climate & Energy Policy
41% of Americans Think The Media Exaggerate Climate Change Seriousness