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Poll: Across party divides, Western voters show majority support for conservation

An image showing majority support from Republicans, Independents and Democrats for political leaders prioritizing conservation over energy production.
Colorado College State of the Rockies Project
An image showing majority support from Republicans, Independents and Democrats for political leaders prioritizing conservation over energy production.

Voters across the West strongly support conservation and are concerned about a number of environmental issues, according to the latest bipartisan Conservation in the West Poll.

For the survey, a project of Colorado College, pollsters contacted nearly 3,400 registered voters in eight Western states, and at least 400 voters in each state. While there were noticeable differences between age groups and political parties on a number of questions, broad agreement on many issues was clear. For example, three-quarters of Republicans and nearly all Democrats said that they would seriously consider a public official’s position on conservation when voting.

“Most of the things that we poll on are so skewed by partisanship that you would think people are on different planets,” said Republican pollster Lori Weigel of New Bridge Strategy, one of the firms that conducts the survey. “This is not one of them.”

For the first time in the poll’s 14 years, majorities of both parties and independents all supported prioritizing conservation over energy production.

“We have always seen pretty significant emphasis on conservation across party lines,” said Dave Metz, a Democratic pollster with Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, the other firm involved. “But this is the first year that we've got majorities of all three parties, including 89% of Democrats, 72% of independents and 52% of Republicans.”

Very strong majorities – nearly 90% in some cases – were concerned about a range of environmental issues like habitat loss, climate change, water pollution and microplastics. Two-thirds said that climate change has impacted their own state significantly, up 4% from 2020.

Similarly strong majorities supported pro-conservation policies such as creating new national parks and monuments, building wildlife crossings and minimizing light pollution’s impact on seeing the night sky.

The poll also found broad concern – 87%, the highest figure recorded to date – about children not spending enough time outside. An even stronger majority felt that nature could be an effective tool for addressing the youth mental health crisis.

“One thing that struck me as a mom of a teenager was that moms were the highest group here telling us that,” Weigel said.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

As Boise State Public Radio's Mountain West News Bureau reporter, I try to leverage my past experience as a wildland firefighter to provide listeners with informed coverage of a number of key issues in wildland fire. I’m especially interested in efforts to improve the famously challenging and dangerous working conditions on the fireline.

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