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Youth Poll Reveals Need for Connection to Nature: Results show awareness of environmental problems and potential to empower youth

Just 11 percent of American teens say that they spend time outside daily. What does this mean for the future of the environmental movement?


BRUNSWICK, ME | September 07, 2011

The Nature Conservancy has released a new nationwide poll that reveals America’s youth is unhappy with the condition of the environment, and lack faith in adults to address it. The findings also show strong evidence that more time spent in nature directly correlates with a commitment to protect it.

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) agree that “previous generations have damaged our environment and left it to our generation to fix it.” Only one-third of youth believe that government leaders are doing a “good job addressing major problems facing our country.”

The research confirmed that youth are not spending a great deal of time outdoors.
• 88 percent of America’s youth spend time online every day.
• 69 percent said they play video games or watch TV every day.
• Conversely, just 11 percent reported regularly spending time outside every day.

“This research is a wake-up call for parents, leaders and the conservation community,” said Mark Tercek, Nature Conservancy president and CEO.

Here in the Northeast, the numbers mirror national trends. Just 10 percent of respondents in the region describe themselves as strong environmentalists, and only 26 percent of teens surveyed report that they’ve had a meaningful experience in nature.

“Today’s youth do not believe we are doing enough to address the mounting challenges facing the environment,” Tercek said. “It is critical that we take more proactive steps to protect our lands and waters for younger generations and engage them in efforts to carry the environmental movement forward.”

Key Findings:

• More time spent in nature directly correlates with a commitment to protect it: The survey showed that 66 percent of youth who reported having a personal experience in nature that made them appreciate it more were twice as likely to view themselves as strong environmentalists. And of those who reported they were frequently in nature were also significantly more likely to express concern about water pollution, air pollution, global warming and the condition of the environment.

• There is great potential to mobilize American youth around issues related to the environment and nature: Roughly 76 percent of youth today strongly believe climate change can be solved if action is taken now. They also think safeguarding important lands and waters should be a priority regardless of any ancillary benefits and the struggling economy.

• Peer pressure is a good thing too: The research found that friends are among the most powerful influencers to get kids off of the couch. An overwhelming majority, 90 percent, said that if their friends encouraged them to spend more time in nature, they would listen.

• Nature is an Rx for Stress: Youth have a lot on their minds – sizable majorities rate bullying, crime and the quality of public education as “extremely” or “very serious” problems. But the results indicate that spending time in nature could help them cope with that stress. Nearly three-quarters associate being in nature with being peaceful, free, calm and happy.

The research was conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (D) and Public Opinion Strategies (R) and funding was provided by The Toyota USA Foundation and The Foundation for Youth Investment.

“Today's youth are going to be the innovators of new solutions to ensure a sustainable future, and we are proud to support this critical research by The Nature Conservancy to illuminate how youth across the nation value nature in a rapidly changing world,” said Pat Pineda, group vice president of philanthropy at Toyota Motor North America.

“The Foundation for Youth Investment was proud to sponsor this research that sheds light on why our youth are spending less time outdoors,” said Steve Hagler, executive director of the Foundation for Youth Investment. “Unlike previous generations where parents simply said, ‘Go outside and play!’ kids today need more encouragement, and we must give them the opportunity by providing outdoor programs and safe open spaces and parks.”

To learn more about the poll and The Nature Conservancy’s work to engage youth with nature, visit www.nature.org/youthpoll

Methodology: From July 28 to August 4, 2011, FM3 and POS completed 602 on-line interviews with American youth between the ages of 13 and 18. Quotas were established to ensure representativeness of the sample by age, gender, geography, and race.

Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) has specialized in public policy-oriented opinion research since the company was first organized in 1981. With permanent offices in Los Angeles, Oakland, and Madison, Wisconsin, the firm conducts research for political candidates, for ballot measure campaigns, and for businesses, non-profits, and government agencies across all fifty states and also in other countries.

Public Opinion Strategies (POS) is a survey research company specializing in political and public policy research, with offices in Washington, Denver and Los Angeles. Founded in 1991, the firm has conducted more than three million interviews with voters and consumers in all fifty states and over a dozen foreign countries, including more than 1,600 focus groups. In partnership, FM3 and POS collaborate on over a dozen bipartisan research projects each year. The team has worked together in 38 states, from Alaska to Florida, as well as on numerous national research projects. The team conducts research on land conservation, political reform, immigration, health care, education, and other critical issues.


The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.

Contact information

Misty Edgecomb
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Nature Conservancy
617-532-8317
medgecomb@tnc.org

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