Poll: Western Voters Soundly Reject Trumpian Conservation Ideas

Poll: Western Voters Soundly Reject Trumpian Conservation Ideas
Fish and Wildlife
A Colorado College poll of Western voters found that they increasingly favor conservation efforts, with Colorado voters among the more conservation-focused in the region.

The poll asked voters in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho about a variety of issues related to conservation, wildlife, energy use and climate change, and respondents supported virtually every conservation effort by a wide margin.

For example, 73 percent of Coloradans said they'd vote to raise taxes to pay for conservation funding. Even self-identified Republicans said they'd endorse tax increases to help fund such projects — a general rebuke of the Trump administration's "energy dominance" agenda.

"There's a clear mandate from Colorado voters to protect our public lands," said Governor Jared Polis on a conference call with reporters in reaction to the poll. "These are very much the priorities that I ran on and that we're going to act on."

Perhaps the biggest shift in Coloradans' attitudes on conservation issues has been our perceptions of climate change. In 2016, only 63 percent of the state's voters in that year's Colorado College survey felt that climate change was a "serious" problem, but that number jumped to 77 percent in 2019. And the amount of voters who felt that climate change was a "very" or "extremely" serious problem spiked from 39 to 62 percent in the same time span.

Unsurprisingly, Colorado ranked near the top in terms of voters who say that outdoor recreation is "important" to the economic future of the West, with 90 percent saying it's at least "somewhat" important and 69 percent saying it's "very" important. As a whole, the economic importance of outdoor recreation was the most bipartisan issue, with 88 percent of western Republicans, 85 percent of Democrats and 87 percent of independents agreeing.

The survey also found that 69 percent of Coloradans consider themselves conservationists, and 73 percent consider themselves outdoor recreation enthusiasts. After a dry 2018 for most of the state that included several large wildfires, 69 percent of Colorado respondents said they considered wildfires to be a bigger problem now than they were ten years ago.

Democratic and Republican pollsters collaborated to issue the survey, which included at least 400 voters in each of the seven participating states.
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Chris Bianchi is a Westword contributor interested in politics.
Contact: Chris Bianchi