Town halls are a good way to get an idea of what local opinions are like. Polls and surveys are the industry standard, but they are far from a random sampling. Also, not everyone takes part in votes and not everyone is a citizen who is eligible to vote. Many people are immigrants and resident aliens but are still members of the general public. If there were a way to get people from all areas to comment and talk together in one online forum, that might be a good way to assess public opinions on environmental issues.
Typically polls are the correct answer. You can also gauge the government’s progress and the public’s response, as the others have said.
Another way that is also quite frequently monitored is the activity of NGOs/NPOs (non-government/profit organizations), which are essentially powered by volunteer activity. The greater the amount of activity, the more the public would appear to care about the issue in question.
I’d have to say that elections are the strongest indicator of people’s feelings towards environmental issues. It can either be at the state or federal level. Polls can inaccurately represent the populous, be biased, or be muddled by news organizations. I believe that people vote on the issues when it comes to elections.
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