The poll, which surveyed the views of voters in eight Mountain West states (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming), found that public lands and the outdoor way of life continues to be of deep importance to Western voters. 69 percent label themselves as “conservationists,” and that perspective informs their votes. 82 percent of Latino voters consider an elected official’s stance on issues involving water, air, wildlife and public lands “important” when deciding whether to support them. Nearly half—47 percent—say those issues are a “primary factor” in their decision.
“Support for conservation on public lands remains consistent and strong over the decade-long history of our poll,” said Corina McKendry, Director of the State of the Rockies Project and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Colorado College. “The urgency and demand for action behind those feelings is now intensifying as voters in the West increasingly believe their lands and lifestyles are coming under attack from the impacts of climate change and energy development.”
Western Latino voters expect their elected officials to advance policies reflecting the predominant conservationist perspective across the region.
- 82 percent of Latino voters favor a national goal to protect 30 percent of America’s land and ocean areas by 2030, with majority support across party lines for the ambitious conservation goal.
- 72 percent want their member of Congress to protect national public lands over allowing more drilling and mining.
- 75 percent agree that private companies should not profit from using public lands when it limits the public’s enjoyment of the area.
- 86 percent say the lack of resources to properly maintain public lands is a serious problem.
- 69 percent support fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
“Latinos are changing the face of conservation leading it to be more reflective of the communities we see in the western states. As they become leaders in this movement, they are seeking solutions that represent the needs and address the concerns of their communities,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “With the growing electoral power that this community is just beginning to discover, you have a political force that has the potential to shift the balance on conservation issues like climate change where Latino voter support outpaces other communities.”
Growing fears about the impacts of climate change
Voters view climate change as the first or second most important environmental problem in each state surveyed. Climate change as a top concern has increased dramatically over ten years of the poll from 5 percent in 2011 to 39 percent today.
Overall, 78 percent of Latino voters across the region see climate change as a “serious problem.”
66 percent saying the evidence of climate change requires action.
Western Latino voters are alarmed about the impacts of climate change with 72 percent believing the effects over the past ten years are significant and 75 percent agreeing they will continue to be significant over the next decade.
The feared impact of climate change includes uncontrollable wildfires, which are viewed as a serious problem by 84 percent of Latino voters. To deal with the impacts, 83 percent of Latino voters expect their congressional representatives and state governors to have a plan to reduce carbon pollution that contributes to climate change. Reducing carbon pollution is seen as an important objective for public officials by a majority of Democrats, Republicans, and independent voters.
Concerns about energy development and a push for clean, renewable sources
When it comes to energy development, Western Latino voters want to make sure public lands are protected and safe.
- 69 percent of Latino voters view the impacts of mining on land and water as serious problems.
- 74 percent say the impacts of oil and gas drilling pose a serious problem.
- 64 percent of Latino voters support increasing royalty fees for drilling on public lands.
- 81 percent want to see mining companies pay a fee for their public lands operations.
- 89 percent support for requiring oil and gas companies to use updated equipment to prevent methane gas pollution.
Western Latino voters want to see the expansion of clean, renewable sources of energy. In total, 74 percent of Latino voters are behind gradually increasing the use of renewable energy sources to 100 percent in their state.
Continued support for protecting water and wildlife
Water is among the top environmental concerns of voters in the West. Additionally, Latino voters are disappointed with the action of the current administration in regards to water.
- 80 percent say water supplies are becoming more unpredictable every year.
- 90 percent of Western Latino voters view water supplies and low levels in rivers as a serious problem in their state.
- 94 percent of voters say pollution of rivers, lakes and streams is a top concern.
- 90 percent say microplastics in their drinking water supplies are a top concern.
- 72 percent of voters view removing Clean Water Act protections as a bad change.
Wildlife also remains a top concern for Westerners and the administration policies towards wildlife are largely rejected by Latino voters in the West.
- 75 percent believe the loss of habitat to be a serious problem.
- 68 percent say allowing more drilling instead of protecting sage grouse habitat was a “bad change.”
- 67 percent of Western Latino voters view to the administration’s decision to reduce protections for threatened species under the Endangered Species Act as a “bad change”
- 76 percent of voters prefer policies like designating portions of public lands where wildlife migrate each year as areas closed to oil and gas drilling.
This is the tenth consecutive year Colorado College has gauged the public’s sentiment on public lands and conservation issues. The 2020 Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll is a bipartisan survey conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of New Bridge Strategy and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.
The poll surveyed 400 registered voters in each of eight Western states (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT, & WY) for a total 3,200-person sample. 499 of the respondents identified as Hispanic/Latino. The survey was conducted between January 11-19, 2020 and has a margin of error of ±2.65 percent nationwide and ±4.9 percent statewide. The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the State of the Rockies website.