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United States

Women more supportive

Supporters of wind power may well be more likely to be females than males, according to the results of a recent opinion poll. In America, most women think the government is not doing enough to protect the environment, while only 38% of men believe regulation has not gone far enough.

This "environmental gender gap" emerges in a new national Roper Starch Poll released in Washington. A gender gap in the US has become increasingly apparent during the last four presidential elections over the past 16 years. But most usually, women's greater liberalism is linked to their concern about social issues such as welfare, child care or because more women live below the poverty line. Concern about the environment is seldom mentioned in explaining the gender gap, which experts believe was the single largest reason that President Bill Clinton was re-elected over Republican Bob Dole.

The poll further finds that almost one-quarter, or 23% of men think that environmental regulation is excessive, while only 14% of women answered that way. The poll was commissioned by the National Environment Education and Training Foundation, established by the US Congress in 1990 to educate people about the environment through co-operation between businesses, non-profits, and the government.

Specifically, 4% of women think regulation of dirty air has gone too far, while 12% of men agree. "We tend to think of the gender gap as having to do mostly with women's rights kind of concerns, with abortion or whatever," says Kevin Coyle, president of the foundation. "Men are also pro-environment, but there are some pretty definite differences. Women are more pro-environment, and policy-makers ought to understand that if they want to close any gender gap," adds Coyle.

The survey also indicates that the attitudes of both genders have changed little over the last five years. It found that three-quarters say they would pay more for expensive pollution-reducing petrol (gasoline); 58% agree that government spending should be shifted more to "green" concerns; 63% agree that when compromise is impossible, the environment should be favoured over development.

The attitudes that had changed, however, implied that many people believe progress in protecting the environment has been made. In 1992, 63% thought regulation was inadequate, while that proportion had dropped to 45% this year. Seventeen percent in 1992 thought regulation was about right. This year, 28% thought it was about right. Four years ago, 10% thought regulation was excessive -- and that has increased to 19% this year.

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