As the battle lines are drawn for next month’s hotly contested midterm elections, some Americans may be comforted to know there is at least one area of common ground for Democrats and Republicans.
Regardless of political standing, age or gender, U.S. voters are in favor of renewable energy, according to research by Christine Horne, professor of sociology at Washington State University.
Horne and Emily Kennedy, a former WSU sociology professor now at the University of British Columbia, are the authors of a new study in the journalEnvironmental Politics that shows while conservatives and liberals tend to disagree on many environmental issues, they both view the development of solar power and other forms of renewable energy as financially savvy and a step towards self-sufficiency.
“I think anyone who is paying attention to our current political climate might be interested to see there is an area of common ground,” Horne said. “Marketing renewable energy as a way to be more self-sufficient is a message that would appeal to both liberals and conservatives.”
Younger Americans tend to be more environmentally conscious than their parents and grandparents. This has lead science educators such as Bill Nye to argue societal attitudes toward the topic will shift as older generations die off.
Disturbing new research suggests that may be a false hope. It reports Americans grow less supportive of spending money to protect the natural environment as they age, no matter the year of their birth.
“There is no inexorable march toward greater environmentalism as younger cohorts with greater environmental awareness replace older ones,” warn Erik Johnson, professor of sociology at Washington State University, and Philip Schwadel of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Their study, in the journal Environment and Behavior,suggests organizations urging Earth-friendly behaviors may be targeting the wrong demographic.
The researchers analyzed data from the General Social Survey, a large, nationally representative sample of American adults, from 1973 to 2016. They focused on responses to one question: whether we are spending (a) too much, (b) about the right amount of money, or (c) too little on “improving and protecting the environment.”
Back during the Eisenhower Administration, James Short was studying Chicago street gangs. He became a longtime professor of sociology in 1951.
And though Mr. Short’s Youth Studies Project wrapped up nearly 60 years ago, other sociologists say it remains relevant today.
He found that gang members “want to be respected and be tough,” said Lorine A. Hughes, WSU sociology alumna now at the University of Colorado Denver. “They’re not thinking about broader punishments. They really want to be respected on the street.”
He sought information from potential “juvenile delinquents” themselves, rather than rely on data from police and the courts.
As we celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week, we also take a look at the struggles of a tourism-based economy. Jennifer Sherman is associate professor of sociology at Washington State University. Her research looks at the ways in which job loss, poverty, and economic strain affect families, particularly in rural U.S. communities.
She’s author of the book Those who Work, Those who Don’t: Poverty, Morality, and Family in Rural America.
Flipping through the pages of a dusty, yellowing paperback in his office, James “Jim” Short, Jr., WSU professor emeritus of sociology, pointed to a black-and-white photograph.
“That’s on the westside (of Chicago),” the 94-year-old gang researcher said as he pointed out several well-dressed figures in the photo. “That’s where the Vice Lords were located.”
The photo depicts several young men walking their dogs down a bustling street. All were members of one of the many street gangs Short studied in the 1950s and 1960s. His research, half a century after his historic study on the rise of supergangs like the Vice Lords, is still impacting sociology today.
Short remains as interested as ever.
“That’s why I became a sociologist,” he said. “I was curious about the world around me.”