The Second Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy: a survey of adult environmental knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors

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A survey of adult environmental knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors

Minnesota residents continue to encounter a variety of environmental issues. What knowledge and skills do they need to be able to solve these issues? It is clear that Minnesota needs an environmentally literate citizenry-one that has knowledge about, and attitudes toward the environment and the issues that in turn may affect behaviors related to the environment.

What does environmental literacy mean? People who are environmentally literate:

  • understand the complexity of natural and social systems and their interrelationships.
  • demonstrate the knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivation, and commitment to work individually and collectively toward sustaining a healthy natural and social environment.
  • have the capacity to perceive and interpret the health of environmental and social systems and take appropriate action to maintain, restore, or improve the health of those systems.
  • The Second Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy ( August 2004, documents the results of the second statewide survey, which was conducted in 2003, concerning environmental literacy of adults in Minnesota. The first survey (2001)created a baseline of environmental literacy for residents of the state. And the third report card was published in 2008, with the survey conducted in 2007. All can be found at Minnesota adults were surveyed for their knowledge about, attitudes toward, and behaviors related to the environment.

    Some of the findings in the second report card include:

  • 80 percent of Minnesotans view as important a candidate's record on the environment when voting.
  • Few Minnesotans believe environmental laws have gone "too far".
  • 82 percent view loss of wetlands and residential runoff from yards as serious.
  • 90 percent want schools to provide environmental education.
  • Most Minnesotans are taking some actions to protect the environment.
  • There is a connection between increased environmental knowledge, a more positive environmental attitude, and behavior changes to protect the environment.
  • Overall Minnesotans reported that they know the most about water pollution (61 percent) and least about sustainability (20 percent) and biodiversity (14 percent).
  • The Second Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy follows a similar format to the previous report; however, it goes on to examine changes that occurred in the intervening period for questions used in both surveys. Comparisons are also made to Pennsylvania residents and United States citizens. These comparisons are based on similar studies performed by Pennsylvania and nationally. While some of the data from these surveys may seem old, they are important to include, as Pennsylvania is still the only other state to conduct a similar survey. See Pennsylvania report.

    It is important to conduct similar surveys in the future. By continuing to collect information about Minnesotans' knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors, we can track trends in environmental literacy and highlight any appropriate changes to our education efforts.

    Survey Instrument
    From August through November 2003, a random sample of 1,000 Minnesota adults answered a series of questions in a telephone survey conducted by the Wilder Research Center (St. Paul, Minn.). A copy of the entire survey is available in Appendix A. See Appendix C for the final frequencies of responses to each individual question.

    The Minnesota environmental literacy survey was developed with members of the working group (see acknowledgements page of the report). The survey instrument includes questions from various National Report Cards on Environmental Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviors (referred to as National Environmental Report Cards in this report) conducted by the National Environmental Education Training Foundation and Roper Starch Worldwide. Questions were also developed specifically for this survey.

    Data Analysis
    Data from the survey interviews were analyzed using frequencies of occurrence and the Pearson Chi-Square, which tests the relationship between two variables and reports statistical significance. One set of variables in this report is the demographics (gender, age, education, location, income), while the other set is the questions from the survey.

    The respondents to the survey were divided according to specific demographics to allow for analysis of the data. The demographics selected were gender, age (18-34, 35-44, 45-64, and 65 and over), education (high school, some college, college degree), location (seven-county metro, other metro areas in the state, non-metro or rural areas), and income ($30,000 or less, $30,001-$50,000, $50,001-$75,000, and over $75,000). The Pearson Chi-Square determines a statistical relationship between two variables, in this case, demographics and the questions.

    Organization of the Second Report Card
    The Second Report Card is divided into four parts. The first three discuss specific sections of the survey: knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. The final section offers an integrated perspective to the overall report and to Minnesota adults' environmental literacy.

    It is important to remember that this survey and report are not an evaluation of the public, but rather a further collection of information concerning the knowledge about, attitudes toward, and behaviors related to the environment in Minnesota. This will be used with the previous report-and future reports-to track trends and changes in environmental literacy as Minnesota adults are surveyed again at various points in the future.

    The Second Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy was developed by Hamline University's Center for Global Environmental Education through a state Environmental Assistance grant. Dr. Tony Murphy, College of St. Catherine, was the principal author of the project.

    For More Information:
    To request a printed copy of The Second Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy - 2004 or The Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy - 2002 contact the MPCA Learning Resource Center at or 651-757-2120, 800-877-6300 toll free. All three report cards can be found online at

    If you have questions concerning The Second Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy contact Dr. Tony Murphy at, 651-690-6711.

    Dr. Tony Murphy
    Topic Areas: 
    Target Audience: 
    Geographic Location: 
    All Minnesota
    Enhancements / Connections: 

    The Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy (2002), The Third Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy (2008), Environmental Literacy Scope and Sequence

    92 pp.
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