Environment fails to challenge security, economy for voter interest

Green issues appear to be receding following the Gaza conflict and a looming recession, pollsters tell Post.

By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
February 2, 2009 21:59
2 minute read.
Environment fails to challenge security, economy for voter interest

air pollution 224 88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

 
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Green issues appear to be receding following the Gaza conflict and a looming recession, with security and the economy more likely to guide voters, two pollsters told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. "The biggest item is security," said Rafi Smith of Smith Consulting and Research. "Even those issues which received prominence on a local level, like environmental ones, have been pushed back on a national level. There is a sense that you can always talk about the environment tomorrow, but security needs to be talked about today," he told the Post. Kalman Geier of Applied Economics, a strategy and polling company, said that the threat of a recession would probably divert voters from environmental issues. "From time to time, I put in a question about preferring the environment at the expense of development or development at the expense of environment," Geier said. "In times of financial recession, the public prefers development, while in times of growth, they prefer the environment." Two other major polling institutes contacted by the Post had never focused on the environment, perhaps indicating a sense among pollsters that the public was not interested. Environmental credentials may or may not play a role in how voters choose parties. In a poll taken during Operation Cast Lead by the Geocartographic Institute on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), 50 percent of the respondents said it was important for a candidate to have environmental credentials. However, just 24.6% were heavily inclined to make decisions with a green agenda in mind, while 26.8% were totally uninterested in such issues. The question revealed a middle-of-the-road mentality, wherein environmental issues may be a factor, but not the deciding factor. However, the news is not all bad for the environment. Although most recent polls show that a green party would not pass the electoral threshold, Smith said lists of this type still had a chance. "There is still a core nucleus of voters who might get a green party in, even though the polls don't indicate it," he said. "Ninety thousand fanatics might still vote to get one in." Geier said that looking at trends over time, he had noticed environmental issues moving up in importance. "If... I had asked that question [about environment over development or development over environment] 10 years ago, in the mid-90s, development would always be preferred," he said. "Now, you can see a variance. Environmental awareness has risen on the agenda." The SPNI poll indicated that much of the public believed the government was not properly addressing environmental threats. It also showed that the public was largely aware of the health risks of pollution. In addition, most of the 500 respondents were in favor of increasing the Environmental Protection Ministry's budget and of placing more emphasis on public transportation and the preservation of open spaces. The poll had a margin of error of 4.4%. SPNI plans to bring the poll to the attention of the major parties to show that the public has serious concerns about environmental issues.

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