Survey says: EPA under Scott Pruitt is less trusted; companies should stay the course

Survey says: EPA under Scott Pruitt is less trusted; companies should stay the course

As a regular reader of our work, you received a short poll earlier this week intended to help us gauge your perceptions of the EPA in the wake of Scott Pruitt’s confirmation. American consumers also received this poll.

Our aim here was to put some data and insights behind the advice we’ve been giving via this blog and privately to our clients. That advice, summarized in last week’s blog post, has been: “Stay the course and then change the course.” In other words, you shouldn’t waver from your commitments to the environment and, in fact, you should step them up – consumers expect it, and they’ll continue to put their wallets where their values are. We’ve also been curious ever since Scott Pruitt was named to lead the EPA what that would mean for overall trust in the agency. When he was confirmed last Friday, we decided to find out.

Now, this wasn’t our standard Pulse study sample, surveying 2,000 Americans with quotas to mirror the latest Census Bureau numbers and a +/-2% margin of error. This was a quick Pollfish overnight poll of U.S. mobile app users. But it’s a good sample. We’re right-on from an income and education standpoint, and we got an even representation of age groups. The only places where we’re off slightly is in geographic distribution and political affiliation (it skewed a little Midwestern and a hair more Democrat – see the methodology, and the topline findings, here). Overall, this sample of 400 Americans gets us to within a +/-5% margin of error. And our poll of Shelton Insights readers, while not representative of business decision makers across the board, gathers input from people who are very knowledgeable about the environment: sustainability, energy and built environment professionals.

The numbers in both polls are very striking – even with a little bias baked in. The story is this:

  • Scott Pruitt’s got a lot of work to do. Respondents say that under his leadership, the EPA is far less trusted than it was before – both in terms of environmental protection and as a source for facts about the environment.
  • Americans see NGOs picking up the slack. They’re expected to do even more to protect the environment and to disseminate the facts on climate change.
  • Companies are expected to stay the course. Continue to prioritize reducing GHG emissions and investing in renewable energy.


Obviously, there’s a great opportunity for NGOs to be the real leaders on the environment, and it will be interesting to see which one emerges in the next four years as the go-to source for action and facts. There’s also an opportunity for companies to reassure all of us that they are unwavering in their commitments to reducing environmental impact – and build their brands in the process.

So my advice from last week remains: stay the course … and then up your game and change the course for the better for us all.

If you’re interested, here are the topline findings from both polls.


Suzanne Shelton

About Suzanne Shelton

Suzanne Shelton is President and CEO of Shelton Group, the nation's leading marketing agency focused exclusively on energy and the environment. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of the industry, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights in her writing, research, and client work. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as, and she speaks at over 20 conferences a year, including ACEEE, AESP, Greenbiz Forum, and Sustainable Brands.

View all posts by Suzanne Shelton →


  1. You admit a Democratic bias and even so, publish your poll. It has been disheartening to see such flawed results amid a veritable firestorm of hysteria and hypocrisy by Democrats. The fact that you even polled on someone who has been in office only a few weeks makes me suspect of your intentions. I’ve been an environmentalist since the 1970s and will continue to fight for nature no matter who is office. But the self-righteous among us should probably junk their cars, stop flying in planes, never use any power that comes from coal, hydropower, oil, gas, stop buying plastic, etc. Maybe your next poll can question overall trust in Democrats (I’m an independent and would like to see an independent or Republican bias for a change) after all the hyperbole that’s been spewed against the current administration. Trump won. Get over it and let’s move on to the important work of resurrecting this country to health instead of the fear-mongering!!

    • Robin,

      The article refers to a small 5% polling bias in the consumer survey, not nearly enough to drive the results. In addition, Pruitt has not been in this particular role for even a week, but he has served in similar public offices that can allow us to deduce how he may now serve. Indeed, it is the behavior exhibited in those positions that have caused such concern. Concern for a viable EPA performing is crucial duties, set forth by Congress and enacted by a Republican, are very much a part of a maintaining this nation’s health in all its forms.

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