Shelton QuickPulse: EPA Confidence Poll

Topline Findings

Consumer Awareness/Name Recognition

We screened participants in the survey by asking them to choose who Scott Pruitt is: the new head of the EPA, the former head of ExxonMobil, or the head of the National Security Agency who was recently forced to step down. Only 400 out of 1,320 consumers (30%) correctly named Scott Pruitt as the new head of EPA.

Impact on Perceptions of the EPA

“Pruitt’s appointment negatively impacts trust in the EPA for facts about the environment and climate:

  • 84% of Shelton newsletter respondents said they have trusted the EPA in the past for facts about the environment and climate. But now that Pruitt is head of the agency, only 22% said they will trust the EPA for facts.
  • Likewise, 51% of consumers said that they had previously trusted the EPA, and now only 32% will continue to trust the agency for facts about the environment and climate.

Specific Concerns Expressed

When Shelton newsletter readers were asked in an open-ended question, “What (if anything) are you most concerned about Scott Pruitt doing?” 226 provided responses:

  • 5 thought it’s too early to judge and want to wait and see.
  • 17 (8%) offered positively oriented comments:
    • 9 are looking forward to the opportunity that Scott Pruitt has been given to reassess EPA’s regulatory activities.
    • 4 said they have no real concerns:
      • “No concerns. My hope is people allow him and his team to dig in, develop and execute programs in conjunction with NGOs and associations.”
      • “I relish the opportunity for a new leader to reassess all of the regulatory activity and determine not only the legal basis for the actions, but the impact on American society.”
      • “I think he should be given an opportunity for him to prove his worth. If it becomes apparent he was the wrong pick, select another.”
  • 92% expressed concern/negative reactions:
    • Three of the top 4 concerns expressed were primarily about repealing previous laws, destroying previous environmental stewardship and/or dismantling the EPA and other agencies:
      • Repealing important laws like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act (27%)
        • “Rolling back regulations that have already been successfully implemented and accepted by businesses, such that re-creating them later will be difficult, maybe impossible, and different enough from previous versions that businesses will have to adapt to them all over again. Getting rid of the Energy Star for Homes program. Reduced messaging on climate change.”
      • Destroying previous environmental stewardship (13%)
        • “Dismantling regulations and mandates relating to a cleaner, safer environment. Propagating false information. Setting back U.S. progress relating to the environment, energy, water, etc.”
      • Dismantling EPA and/or rolling back important agencies (12%)
        • “I’m afraid he will emasculate the EPA so that it will only do the minimum required by law. In my worst nightmare, he eliminates the EPA.”
    • 15% were concerned that government research would be limited and information released by the EPA would be controlled:
      • “Pruitt is likely to edit data and white papers from scientists if they don’t agree with his ideology. Pruitt will smother factual data, cherry pick other data to build a pseudoscientific argument to support his ideology. Pruitt will likely break his oath and the law without being charged. This will only serve to embolden him to commit more crimes against the U.S. without consequences. The only saving grace are the good people still doing good work at the EPA despite Pruitt’s reckless and unlawful actions.”
    • 11% were concerned about Pruitt working for the benefit of oil and major corporations:
      • “Relaxing regulations so the oil and gas companies can resume past practices that the EPA found to be damaging to the environment.”

Consumers were asked the same question: “What (if anything) are you most concerned about Scott Pruitt doing?” Again, the 400 open-end verbatim responses were primarily negative:

  • 3% (12 people) had specific positively oriented responses:
    • “I think he’ll do a good job … it will only take time for him to settle in.”
  • 21% said they had no concerns.
  • 16% said they didn’t know enough about EPA and/or Scott Pruitt or had no comment.
  • The remaining 60% of consumers expressed worry or concerns:
    • Specifically, 20% are concerned that his policies will harm the overall environmental health of the planet or that current environmental protection policies will be hampered.
      • “There is certainly something to be said about the way Scott Pruitt talks about the environment. We need people who fundamentally believe and advocate for global climate change. Not only in our country, but across the world. This is not an American effort. It is a global effort, and I don’t think Scott Pruitt is up to that challenge of global teamwork.”
    • Other concerns voiced by consumers include trust issues, not supporting factual evidence, allowing governmental interference and support of big corporations.
      • “Not doing the job he was selected for with honesty, integrity and a will to serve the best interests of the public.”
      • “Rolling back environmental regulations for industries, being on the side of big oil and big business over environmental concerns, promoting drilling on protected land.”

Shifts in Information Source Reliance

Both consumers and Shelton newsletter readers say they will now look primarily to NGOs for protecting the environment and addressing climate change:

  • Shelton newsletter respondents said they would rely on: NGOs (78%), state or local government (66%), and EPA (31%) tied with industry associations (31%)
  • Consumers will rely on: NGOs (54%), EPA (34%) and state or local government (29%)

Newsletter readers who said they would rely on NGOs would look to the Natural Resources Defense Council (68%) followed by Environmental Defense Fund (55%).

  • Consumers would rely primarily on WWF (65%), Environmental Defense Fund (40%) and The Nature Conservancy (39%).


A sample of U.S. consumers (n=400) were surveyed using the Pollfish survey platform to gather online feedback via a laptop/desktop or mobile app or smartphone. Respondents were selected automatically from users of more than 10,000 apps.

Demographically, respondents were split equally between men and women and four age categories: 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54 and 55+. Education and income levels closely match that of U.S. census. Geographically, there were slightly more Midwestern and slightly fewer Western region respondents, compared to overall U.S. population distribution. Politically, 35% of respondents identified with the Democratic party, 26% with the Republican party, and 39% either as Independent or with some other party. The latest Gallup poll from January 2017, in comparison, reports 25% identified as Democrats, 28% as Republicans and 44% as Independents.

Shelton Insights newsletter readers, who are primarily business sustainability, energy, and built environment professionals, were also invited to participate in the survey via email, with 315 completing the survey.