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Poll Shows Western Voters Increasingly Identify As Conservationists

Bob Wick / Bureau of Land Management
Anasazi dwellings line a cliff in Utah's Bears Ears National Monument, which the Trump administration shrank by 85 percent in December.

Across eight western states, voters increasingly consider themselves to be conservationists, according to a poll out Thursday from the Colorado College “State of the Rockies” Project. The survey also found that westerners largely prioritize protection of air, water and wildlife over energy development.


The poll surveyed 3,200 voters across Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. Over the last two years, the region has seen a notable change in poll responses. More and more people have come to identify as conservationists, bumping from 63 percent in 2016 up to 76 percent in 2018.


“The degree to which [the trend] is bipartisan, the degree to which it cuts across geographic lines and the degree to which it's increasing is striking,” says Dave Metz, an opinion researcher with FM3 Research and a member of the bipartisan team involved in the poll.


Credit Rae Ellen Bichell / KUNC

Respondents were also asked about their thoughts on the Trump administration's handling of lands and resources. Sixty-four percent of respondents said they would prefer that the Trump administration put more emphasis on protecting clean water, air quality, wildlife habitats and providing opportunities for recreation on public lands than on using such lands for mining and drilling.


“Overwhelmingly, they tell us these are places they want their children and grandchildren to see, that they want conserved for future generations. And they are overwhelmingly rejecting the idea that it hurts the economy of their state or that it ties up too much land that can be put to other uses,” says Lori Weigel, who was also part of the polling team and works with the research firm Public Opinion Strategies.


In December, the Trump administration announced it would shrink national monuments in Utah by a few million acres, land which might now become available to mining and drilling operations. Two thirds of respondents considered the move a "bad idea."


Poll responses to the question: Would you say that it is a good idea or a bad idea to reduce the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments?


The president has also suggested he would revisit a ban on establishing new uranium mines near Grand Canyon National Park, which 70 percent of respondents opposed. Instead, the same proportion of voters says that outdoor recreation will be "very important" in the future of their state and the West.


Rae Ellen Bichell was a reporter for KUNC and the Mountain West News Bureau from 2018 to 2020.
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