Poll: Bipartisan Support for Conservation, Concern for Environment

Colorado College’s 11th annual State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll shows an increase in levels of support for conservation, with voters in the Mountain West calling for action to protect nature as a new administration and Congress consider their public lands agendas.

The poll, conducted between Jan. 2-13,  surveyed at least 400 registered voters in each of the eight Mountain West states — Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming ­— for a total 3,842-voter sample.

“We are seeing strong voter concern for nature, which is translating into calls for bold action on public lands in the West,” says Director of the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project Kat Miller-Stevens​, an assistant professor in CC’s Business and Economics Department. “If federal and state policy leaders are looking for direction on public lands, the view from the West is clear,” she says.

The bipartisan survey, conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of New Bridge Strategy, and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, broke new ground this year in examining the intersection of race with views on conservation priorities.

Pollsters intentionally sampled more Black, Latino, and Indigenous people than in previous years in order to get a more representative sense of equity concerns and to speak more confidently about the view of those communities, organizers said. Those responses were then proportionally weighted when added into aggregate responses.

Despite trying economic conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the level of concern for issues such as loss of habitat for fish and wildlife, inadequate water supplies, air and water pollution, uncontrollable wildfires, and climate change outpaced the overall level of concern about unemployment. The poll found ​61 percent​ of the respondents are concerned about the future of nature, defined by the survey as issues relating to land, water, air, and wildlife. ​

Among the key takeaways of the 2021 Conservation in the West Poll:

  • A number of environmental problems tracked by the poll since its inception in 2011 have emerged among Westerners as very serious. Among these are climate change, with a 27% increase in respondents saying it’s a serious problem, followed by loss of habitat for fish and wildlife at 17%, and pollution of rivers, lakes, and streams at 13%.
  • Younger voters are the most worried about the future of nature; 70% of 18-34 year-olds say they are worried compared to 53% of those 65 and older.
  • There is overwhelming agreement that Western states should continue to invest in conservation, ranging from 94% of respondents in Colorado to 89% in Utah and Wyoming.
  • Wildfires are seen as a more serious problem than before, with 90% of respondents saying it’s a serious problem, up from 82% from last year. Five years ago, 77% cited wildfires as a serious problem.
  • Climate change is seen as a serious problem, with 75% identifying it as such this year, a significant increase from the 55% in 2011 and a large increase from the 66% a year ago.
  • Voters in every state support restoring national monument protections, with Black and Native American voters indicating the most support for these protections.
  • Despite lean budgets in state and local governments, 91% of those surveyed think their representatives should prioritize protecting their state’s land, water and wildlife.
  • Overall, 61% of Western voters are worried about the future of nature; 36% are optimistic.

The poll also includes summary reports by state and topic.

Report an issue - Last updated: 02/05/2021