OTTAWA - Canadians are telling governments not to let the recession become an excuse for easing up on efforts to protect the environment, a new poll suggests.

The finding and others in The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey suggests that while voters are worried about the economy, they do not want governments to ease off on measures to protect the environment and combat global warming.

On the key question, 67 per cent of those asked said the environment should be just as much as priority for governments as tackling economic problems, with only 26 per cent saying it was a secondary concern.

The result was generally shared among Canadians, regardless of gender, annual salary, political affiliation or where they live. However, men, Conservative supporters and those in the West were most likely to say the economy is the top priority.

But even among Conservative supporters, a majority of 53 per cent felt the environment should not take a back seat to the economy.

As well, the vast majority of respondents felt governments were not doing enough on the environment, with 74 per cent saying governmental focus on the issue was not going far enough.

Harris-Decima vice president Jeff Walker said the results were somewhat surprising, since it is generally the case that other issues are often placed on the back burner during tough economic times.

But that doesn't appear to be the mood of Canadians now, despite the fact that over 400,000 jobs have vanished since October and economists and politicians warn unemployment will likely increase further in the next few months.

"In contrast to prevailing views that environmental efforts recede in a recession, Canadians continue to integrate environmentally sustainable behaviours into their lives, and overwhelmingly believe much more can and should be done," said Walker.

The telephone survey of 1,000, which was conducted in the last week of July, also suggests Canadians are starting to do their bit to protect the economy.

Seventy-three per cent said they were making more of an effort to be environmentally conscious in their behaviour than they were a year ago.

And a similar number - 71 per cent - said environmental issues are becoming more important to them personally than they were a few years ago.

A political divide was found on all questions dealing with the environment, with fewer Conservatives -although not a majority - taking environmentally-friendly positions than supporters of the other parties.

Perhaps another surprise in the survey findings is that most Canadians do not see environmentally friendly products and services as overly costly.

While 60 per cent believe making the environmentally friendly choice is more costly in the short term, a plurality of 46 per cent said the costs even out over the long term.

A significant minority of 39 per cent still say making the environmentally friendly choice in products and services will be more costly even in the longer term, however.

The poll was part of a telephone omnibus survey and is said to be accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times in 20.

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