Poll finds young people trust innovative businesses, not politicians, to address environmental challenges

Mar 31, 2022

Contrary to claims that meaningful environmental action can only come from government agencies, a national poll of people aged 18-30 found strong support for individual actions, and more trust for innovative corporations than politicians and government policy.

Conducted by the American Conservation Coalition, an organization dedicated to mobilizing young people around environmental action, asked questions about several environmental priorities. Eighty-one percent of the respondents said “environmental protection” was very or somewhat important. How to protect the environment, however, offers some of the most interesting insights.

When asked who they trust to protect the environment or fight climate change, 32 percent of respondents who consider themselves “independent” answered they trusted neither party. When asked who they trusted to “get things done,” the number of people answering “neither” party jumped to 37 percent.

Additionally, when asked how important a role different groups played in “combatting climate change and protecting the environment,” the group receiving the highest percentage among all respondents was “individuals.” This is remarkable (and encouraging) because many of the messages about environmental policy – especially from politicians – denigrate the impact of individual action, claiming only the government can take meaningful action. State government tied with individuals, with the federal government, and local government coming in next.

Finally, although respondents ranked “business leaders” slightly lower on the list of those who should play an important role in fighting climate change, when specific businesses were mentioned, they fared far better than politicians. The poll found that Joe Biden had a net nine-point negative rating, but Amazon was plus 41 percent, and Microsoft was plus 48 percent. Elon Musk was plus fifteen.

Two things stand out in these numbers.

First, although young people generally trust Democrats more than Republicans on environmental policy, they don’t have much faith that politicians will have much success. They rate political leaders very poorly and large percentages of young people say they don’t trust either party.

Second, there is more faith in private sector innovation than in politicians. Support for Amazon and Microsoft, two companies known for innovation, is far higher than for politicians. When it comes to the environment and climate change specifically, the role “business leaders” should play compared to government entities is small and within the margin of error.

The poll results indicate there is fertile ground for those promoting innovation-based environmental solutions. Innovators, politicians, and public figures who can offer credible approaches to environmental sustainability that empower individuals and harness technological innovation will find support from a large percentage of young people.

The whole poll can be found here.

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