Mountain West voters weighed in on the Trump administration’s priorities for managing the use and protection of public lands in a new Colorado College State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll released today. The poll, now in its eighth year, surveyed the views of voters in eight Mountain West states on some of the most pressing issues involving public lands and waters, including proposals to eliminate or alter national monuments. Hispanic Access Foundation highlighted the Latino results during today’s press conference.
Underpinning the importance Western voters place on protecting public lands, 91 percent of Latinos surveyed view the outdoor recreation economy as important for the economic future of their state. 82 percent view the presence of public lands and their state’s outdoor recreation lifestyle as an advantage in attracting good jobs and innovative companies. Three-quarters of Latinos voters are more likely to identify as a conservationist, up 18 points from two years ago.
Latino majorities in every state—and 86 percent overall—view the recent Trump administration’s decision to remove existing protections and reduce the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah by 2 million acres as a bad idea. Overall, 68 percent of Latino voters disapprove of the job President Donald Trump and his administration has done in handling of issues related to land, water and wildlife. A Trump administration decision to alter or eliminate additional national monuments would be unpopular with 86 percent of respondents across the Mountain West
“We all share the moral obligation to protect our outdoor heritage, to protect these special places and to preserve them as a legacy for future generations,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of HAF. “These national monuments were the byproduct of years of coalition building and stakeholder input – community roundtables, comment periods, events, visits, joint letters, etc. – and demonstrate the widespread support for the historical, recreational and economic benefits of our public lands.”
Latinos hold national monuments in especially high regard. Eighty-three percent described them as helping nearby economies, 89 percent as national treasures, 90 percent as important places to be conserved for future generations, 85 percent as places to learn about America’s history and heritage, and 92 percent as places they want their children to see someday. Twenty-six percent of Latinos said national monuments hurt the local economy and only 19 percent said they tie up too much land that could be put to other uses.
Asked where the Trump administration should place its emphasis between protection and development, 75 percent of Latinos said they prefer protecting water, air and wildlife while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on national public lands. That is compared to 18 percent of Latinos who said they prefer the administration prioritize domestic energy production by increasing the amount of national public lands available for responsible drilling and mining.
“Over the eight-year history of the Conservation in the West Poll, a passion for the outdoors and strong support for American public lands have remained constant in the Mountain West,” said Dr. Walt Hecox, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Colorado College and founder of the State of the Rockies Project. “Nearly all of the people surveyed said they visited national public lands in the past year and plan to go to a national park in 2018. Public lands drive our economy and define our way of life. A leadership agenda that does not recognize that reality is going to be met with strong disapproval in the West.”
Specifically, several actions recently undertaken or currently under consideration by the Trump administration are unpopular with voters in the Mountain West:
29 percent of Latinos support [55 percent oppose] raising fees to enter some of the country’s largest national parks during peak season;
22 percent of Latinos support [69 percent oppose] expanding how much public land is available to private companies which pay for the ability to drill for oil and gas on public lands;
13 percent of Latinos support [79 percent oppose] expanding how much public land is available to private companies which pay for the ability to mine for uranium and other metals on public lands;
11 percent of Latinos support [82 percent oppose] allowing mining on public lands next to Grand Canyon National Park, a practice that is currently banned;
and, conversely, 69 percent of Latinos support [23 percent oppose] requiring oil and gas producers who operate on public lands to use updated equipment and technology to prevent leaks of methane gas during the extraction process and reduce the need to burn off excess natural gas into the air—a regulation the Trump administration is seeking to overturn.
With the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show beginning this week in Denver, after the Outdoor Industry Association ended its 20-year partnership with Salt Lake City as a result of Utah politicians’ hostility toward land conservation and U.S. public lands, the impact of the Trump administration’s recent actions on local outdoor economies is top of mind for the outdoor recreation business community:
“Protecting public lands is a bipartisan issue with constituents across the West agreeing that public lands and waters should remain open and accessible for all to enjoy,” said Travis Campbell, chairman of the board for the Outdoor Industry Association and President of Smartwool. “Unfortunately, the current administration’s actions are not lining up with voters’ desires. We need people from both sides of the aisle to express their dissatisfaction with their legislators and let their voices be heard.”
With record-low snowpack in parts of the West, the drought remained a top concern this year, as low levels of water in rivers and inadequate water supplies were identified as serious issues facing their state by 85 percent and 83 percent of respondents respectively. 79 percent of Latinos prefer addressing the water shortage by using the current water supply more wisely through conservation, reduction and recycling rather than by diverting more waters from rivers in less populated places to communities where more people live. 76 percent of Latinos in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Utah view the Colorado River as “at risk.”
This is the eighth consecutive year Colorado College has gauged the public’s sentiment on public lands and conservation issues. Idaho was added to the survey for the first time this year. The 2018 Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll is a bipartisan survey conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies 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. The survey was conducted in late December 2017 and early January 2018 and has a margin of error of ±2.65 percent nationwide and ±4.9 percent statewide. The full survey, Latino results and individual state surveys are available on the State of the Rockies website.
About Colorado College
Colorado College is a nationally prominent, four-year liberal arts college that was founded in Colorado Springs in 1874. The college operates on the innovative Block Plan, in which its 2,000 undergraduate students study one course at a time in intensive three and a half-week segments. For the past twelve years, the college has sponsored the State of the Rockies Project, which seeks to increase public understanding of vital issues affecting the Rocky Mountain West through annual reports, free events, discussions and other activities.
About Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates
Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3)—a national Democratic opinion research firm with offices in Oakland, Los Angeles and Madison, Wisconsin—has specialized in public policy oriented opinion research since 1981. The firm has assisted hundreds of political campaigns at every level of the ballot—from President to City Council—with opinion research and strategic guidance. FM3 also provides research and strategic consulting to public agencies, businesses and public interest organizations nationwide.
About Public Opinion Strategies
Public Opinion Strategies is the largest Republican polling firm in the country. Since the firm’s founding in 1991, they have completed more than 10,000 research projects, interviewing more than five million Americans across the United States. Public Opinion Strategies’ research is well respected, and prestigious media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, NBC News, and CNBC rely on Public Opinion Strategies to conduct their polling. The firm conducts opinion research on behalf of hundreds of political campaigns, as well as trade associations, not-for-profit organizations, government entities, and industry coalitions throughout the nation.