Survey | Environment

APM Survey: How Americans Relate to Water

A Qualitative Study for the Water Main


Nov. 13, 2019

About the report

How Americans Relate to Water: A Qualitative Study for the Water Main was conducted by Wilder Research and the APM Research Lab, in collaboration with American Public Media’s The Water Main. Results from this exploratory, qualitative study with 201 respondents from 11 locales around the United States will inform the programming and research agenda of The Water Main. This study was conducted from February 23, 2018, to April 15, 2018.

In the white paper, go more in-depth on data about the perception gap, water in conversation and in the news, connections to water beyond environment, personal connections to bodies of water, trade-offs regarding water policy, water-related interest groupings and core values, and methods.

The perception gap

Respondents understand the connection to water for their personal survival and well-being; however, they do not think others share this understanding. Paradoxically, what respondents feel “others need to know” is already at the forefront of the many respondents’ minds: the importance and value of water to life and survival.

“Personally, I know quite a bit about water. If I want to know more, I will look it up.”

“I think people need to understand that it's not just going to take care of itself; that it has to be shepherded just like anything else in our world does.”


Connections to water beyond environment

While almost 9 in 10 respondents see a connection between water and environmental topics, a majority of respondents also see a strong relationship between water and the economy, electricity, and human rights.


Water policy: trade-offs

The majority of respondents would be willing to pay slightly higher taxes to make sure people in the United States have clean drinking water, believe it is more important to protect water than provide jobs, and feel government regulation is what will help protect water.