Poll Shows Bipartisan Support for Conservation

APRIL 19, 2004, WASHINGTON, D.C. – Voters of both parties are so concerned about protecting clean air and water and conserving the lands that help preserve water quality that they would support additional taxes to pay for the preservation of these core “quality of life” issues. Additionally, voters will strongly consider a candidate’s stance on environmental protection in deciding whom to support in November’s elections, according to a bipartisan poll released today by the Trust for Public Land and The Nature Conservancy, two national land and water conservation organizations.

The poll, completed a week prior to Earth Day, shows that 65 percent of American voters surveyed said they were willing to support small increases in taxes to pay for programs to protect water quality, wildlife habitat and neighborhood parks.

Asked if a candidate’s positions on protecting water quality, local parks, and wildlife areas are important factors in deciding whom to vote for in November, 79 percent of the voters polled said “yes.” And in the 17 states likely to be the most contested electoral states in November, the proportion was very similar – 77 percent said conservation issues will be ‘very” or “somewhat” important in making their choices.

The national poll found strong support for these issues cut across all regions of the country, including the West. ?The poll also found particularly strong support for conservation among Latino voters, with 77 percent willing to support new conservation funding measures.

“These results show that voters are willing to make a personal investment to protect local lands and waterways and ensure clean air and water,” said Will Rogers, president of the Trust for Public Land. ?”For a decade, we have worked in communities across the nation on ballot measures to create new public funding sources for open space, and these funds – local taxes and bonds – are often approved by large majorities. That holds true for areas that are heavily Democratic or heavily Republican, and it is true for rural communities, urban centers, and the suburbs. ?Protecting clean air and water and conserving the land that contributes to their protection is important to voters.”

“It’s clear from this national survey that voters are deeply concerned about clean air and water, and people put a high priority on protecting them,” said Steve McCormick, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “If it’s true people vote with their feet, then this survey suggests a lot of folks are wearing hiking boots and deeply value the preservation of natural areas in their communities.”

The bipartisan national poll of 1,500 likely voters was conducted by Republican research firm Public Opinion Strategies and Democrat research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates.

The “small increase” in taxes that voters say they support would translate into large increases for state and local conservation programs. ?A total of 56 percent of voters say they would pay $50 per year more, including 50 percent of Republican voters.

A major reason for the willingness of voters to spend more is to protect water quality, the poll found. ?Large majorities said it is “very important” to buy land to protect drinking water quality (84 percent); improve water quality in lakes and streams (75 percent); protect lakes and rivers (72 percent), and watersheds (66 percent).

Nearly eight-in-ten voters (79 percent) say conservation-related issues are either a primary factor or one of the top issues they will consider in their November voting decisions. More than 40 percent said they have “voted for candidates because of their support for the environment.” ?Those figures held true for key voter groups such as Democrats (50 percent), Republicans (36 percent), Latinos (47 percent), moderates (41 percent) and independents (39 percent).

Much of the concern about land and water conservation has been fueled by the rapid growth and development experienced during the economic boom of the 1990s, the poll found. ?For example, in 1999, 35 percent of voters said their local community was growing too quickly, while 25 percent said it was growing too slowly. ?But the latest poll showed 39 percent of respondents said growth was too fast, while the number who think growth was “too slow” had dropped by half to only 12 percent. ?In addition, voters today are more than four times as likely to say their community has “too little” protected space rather than “too much” – by a margin of 36 percent to nine percent.

The telephone poll was conducted from April 3 to April 12 with a total of 1,500 interviews in the 48 continental states. ?The results focused on three subsets of voters – an 800-voter national sample; a sample of 259 Latino voters; and 570 voters in 10 western states, including Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. ?Results of the national sample had a 3.5 percent margin of error, while the western sample had a 4.2 percent error margin.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization which conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.9 million acres in 46 states. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations and corporations. Visit TPL on the Web at www.tpl.org

The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization that preserves plants, animals and natural communities representing the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 14 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 83 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit us on the Web at www.nature.org