Western voters care more about climate than ‘energy dominance’

This
story
was originally published by High Country News and is reproduced here
as part of the Climate Desk
collaboration.

According to a recent poll, voters across the West are
substantially more worried about climate change now than they were
just two years ago. What’s more, a majority identify as
“conservationists.” These attitudes are at odds with the
priorities of President Donald Trump’s administration, which have
included aggressively cutting environmental regulations while
shrinking national monuments and encouraging fossil fuel production
on public lands.

These findings come from Colorado College’s annual Conservation
in the West
poll, which surveys residents in Arizona, Colorado,
Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming on issues of
climate, energy, and public lands. This year, a majority of the
approximately 400 respondents in each state rated climate change a
serious problem, and every state saw an increase in climate
concern.

These fears may be driven by climate change’s growing impacts
in the West, such as drought and fire. Nearly 70 percent of poll
respondents said that wildfires were more of a problem today than
ten years ago. Climate change is playing an increasing role in the
West’s lengthening fire season and intensifying blazes, according
to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Indeed, the survey found that climate impacts have started to
surpass more traditional political preoccupations, like the
economy: Respondents rated low river and stream levels, water
quality, and insufficient water supplies of greater concern than
wages and unemployment.

Approximately two thirds of respondents also prioritized
environmental protections and public lands access for recreation,
compared to 24 percent who support Trump’s “energy dominance”
policy of ramping up energy production on federally regulated land.
Almost every state polled had at least a 30 percent margin in favor
of conservation, including states that tend to vote red in
statewide elections, including Arizona, Idaho, and Utah. Only
Wyoming stood apart, with just an 8 percent gap between those who
emphasize public lands and those who support increased energy
production. In all, a significant bipartisan majority — almost 90
percent of respondents — rated the outdoor recreation economy as
important to their state, while 70 percent called themselves
“outdoor recreation enthusiasts.”

The poll has habitually found bipartisan support for the outdoor
recreation industry and land access, said Corina McKendry, director
of the State of the Rockies Project and an associate professor of
political science at Colorado College. But “the rejection of the
current administration’s priorities is particularly intense
here,” she said in a press release.

Whether that influences upcoming elections — such as 2020
re-election bids by Trump and by the politically vulnerable
Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican who will face questions
about his ties to the administration and support of fossil fuel
industries — is unclear. Public opinion polls often find
widespread concern regarding climate change and support for
policies to address the crisis. But these issues rarely swing
elections, where foes of climate policies often highlight the
economic and social costs of increased environmental regulations.
In Colorado, where poll respondents overwhelmingly claimed to
prefer environmental protection over energy production, voters
roundly rejected a ballot measure in 2018 to limit hydraulic
fracturing, following an industry-backed publicity campaign against
the measure.

“There is strong evidence that Americans support environmental
protection and conservation efforts and that they have substantial
concerns about environmental issues such as climate change,” said
Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of
Public Opinion, who has worked on other environmental polling
projects.“However, their concerns are often less intense than
those regarding other issues.” Midterm exit polls showed
healthcare, immigration, the economy, and gun control as the top
national issues for voters in 2018.

According to Borick, achieving robust climate policy requires
that the environment compete with, and even surmount, these other
political concerns. How soon this happens is an open question, even
as Westerners increasingly worry about rising temperatures, drying
streams, and hotter fires.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline
Western voters care more about climate than ‘energy
dominance’
on Feb 10, 2019.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News 2
Western voters care more about climate than ‘energy dominance’