1967 API Public Opinion Survey on Air and Water Pollution

A 1967 survey conducted on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute to gauge the public’s understanding of water and air pollution and their respective attitudes toward industry accountability. The API interprets the survey to reflect that the “public at large” is unaware of what industry is doing to reduce pollution and that, as a result, petroleum and automotive industries “have a tremendous public information job on their hands.” The API is alarmed by some of the results such as the 75% in favor of automobile manufacturers installing a pollution control device despite an increase in price. Overall, this survey reveals how early the API was tracking the public’s understanding of pollution and how they hoped to control perception of blameworthiness.

The survey highlights that there is a “sharp increase” in awareness surrounding water and air pollution issues from 1966 to 1967. It found that industrial wastes were the most frequently mentioned cause of water pollution and that the chemical, oil, and rail industry were selected as the industry sectors most responsible for air pollution. In regards to auto exhaust: 27% of respondents feel that both auto manufacturers and oil companies share blame, 32% say it’s solely the automobile manufacturers responsibility, and 16% apportion the blame to oil companies. Lastly, only 4 of 10 (40%) persons surveyed felt that the oil industry needs to take responsibility for air pollution. Of that 40%, most felt that the pollution was a result of refineries’ odor, fume, and gas emissions.

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