PittsburghTODAY Survey Reveals Environment-Related Attitudes and Behaviors of Southwestern Pennsylvania

Issue Date: 
November 4, 2013

Long after the decline of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s storied steel industry, pollution levels in the region continue to be unhealthy by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. Yet, 65 percent of the region’s citizens view air quality as a minor problem or not a problem at all.


This is one of the revealing findings released recently from the Pittsburgh Regional Environment Survey, conducted by PittsburghTODAY and the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for Social and Urban Research. The survey queried more than 800 citizens of the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area on their views and behaviors related to the environment. The results provide an extensive profile of the region’s environment-related behaviors and views on such issues as air and water quality, climate change, and Marcellus Shale drilling.

“The region’s residents have responded, loud and clear, about what is most important to them about the environment—and that the environment is more important to them even than the region’s economy,” said Douglas Heuck, director of PittsburghTODAY. “This is the most significant and in-depth survey ever done on Pittsburgh’s environment, and it is a must-read for policy makers, decision makers, and citizens who are interested in protecting and improving one of the region’s greatest assets—its environment.”

Key survey findings include:

Climate Change: 64 percent of citizens describe climate change as a severe or moderate problem; more than 56 percent of the region’s residents believe human activities are the root cause, while 40 percent believe climate change is the result of natural conditions.

Economy and the Environment: More than 55 percent of citizens say protecting the environment should be a priority over energy production, even at the risk of limiting the nation’s supply of coal, natural gas, or oil. Nearly 80 percent view natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale as a significant or moderate economic opportunity for the region; at the same time, 59 percent believe it poses a significant or moderate threat to public health and the environment.

Energy-saving Actions and Behaviors: 95 percent of citizens regularly turn off lights and electronics in unoccupied rooms, 74 percent make a conscious effort to take short showers, 63 percent turn down the thermostat when asleep or away from home during winter, and 42 percent say they reduced car trips by carpooling, taking public transportation, or walking in the past year.

Governmental Policy: 78 percent of citizens believe that government should be most responsible for solving Pennsylvania’s environmental issues. More than 30 percent believe environmental regulations strengthen job growth, while 28 percent believe regulations weaken growth.

Parks and Recreation: Nearly 75 percent give the quality of the region’s public parks and trails high marks; 12 percent rate them as “excellent,” while another 63 percent grade them as “very good” or “good.”

Additional data and statistics from the Pittsburgh Regional Environment Survey are available on the PittsburghTODAY Web site http://pittsburghtoday.org/special_reports.html in the special reports section.

UCSUR was established in 1972 with a mandate to “bring together, in an organized and integrated fashion, the many research activities and some of the service activities of the University of Pittsburgh which focus on the urban phenomenon.” The center provides state-of-the-art research and support services for investigators interested in interdisciplinary research in the behavioral and social sciences.

Founded in 2004, PittsburghTODAY produces some 500 regional indicators comparing Greater Pittsburgh with regions across the country, and it produces in-depth journalistic reports based on those indicators, as well as state-of-the-art surveys.