I suspect that it is not just Americans who feel this way. Most of Europe, if not the world would probably report similar figures.
The recent gallop results are no surprise but still make for interesting reading. Clean air has always been a luxury good. The link gives you the nice graphs.
Americans: Economy Takes Precedence Over Environment [gallop]
PRINCETON, NJ -- For the first time in Gallup's 25-year history of asking Americans about the trade-off between environmental protection and economic growth, a majority of Americans say economic growth should be given the priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent.
Gallup first asked Americans about this trade-off in 1984, at which time over 60% chose the environmental option. Support for the environment was particularly high in 1990-1991, and in the late 1990s and 2000, when the dot-com boom perhaps made economic growth more of a foregone conclusion.
The percentage of Americans choosing the environment slipped below 50% in 2003 and 2004, but was still higher than the percentage choosing the economy. Sentiments have moved up and down over the last several years, but this year, the percentage of Americans choosing the environment fell all the way to 42%, while the percentage choosing the economy jumped to 51%.
The reason for this shift in priorities almost certainly has to do with the current economic recession. The findings reflect many recent Gallup results showing how primary the economy is in Americans' minds, and help document the fact of life that in times of economic stress, the public can be persuaded to put off or ignore environmental concerns if need be in order to rejuvenate the economy.