Voters in western states are more interested in conservation than land development. They also want Congress to put more emphasis on protecting sources of clean water, air quality and wildlife.
That’s according to a new poll of voters in eight western states, including Nevada.
David Metz, president of FM3 Research, which conducted the poll of western state voters, told State of Nevada nearly 75 percent of Nevadans polled expressed concern about climate change.
“One of the most striking changes in recent years has been the increase in concern that we’ve seen about the issue of climate change,” Metz said.
In the last three years, Metz said, western state voters concern about climate change increased overall about 8 percentage points. But in Nevada, 74 percent of those polled--up from 58 percent three years ago--expressed concern about climate change.
Metz attributes the change to what people are seeing for themselves.
“Essentially, looking out their window and seeing what’s happening around them there’s a number of changes that a lot of attribute to changes in the climate,” he said.
Western water woes are part of what voters are seeing in their daily lives. As part of the poll, Metz's group asked if people thought the western water supply was consistent or unpredictable.
“Two-thirds of western voters tell us that water supplies are becoming more and more unpredictable,” he said.
The poll also shows that a majority of people believe wildfires are a bigger problem than they were 10 years ago and that climate change is one of the biggest drivers of those wildfires.
Metz said his group, which primarily conducts polling for Democrats, worked with a team that primarily polls for Republicans to make sure the data and analysis were as bipartisan as possible.
They also made sure to talk to registered Republicans, Democrats and independents in proportion to the voter rolls.
“This picture is a really balanced, partisan snapshot of the region,” he said.
Metz pointed out that Nevada has more voters who identify as Democrats than Republicans but a large chunk of Nevada voters identify as independent.
The poll showed those independent voters say they value the state's land, water and wildlife resources and would like to see a bigger emphasis on conservation coming from Washington, D.C.
Metz said overall voters in eight states they polled valued the West's natural resources and feel that conservation should be a priority.
“What we see in Nevada, as we’re seeing in all of these other states despite the difference between them, is the enormously high value that the states’ residents place on having easy access to these public lands and the importance it has in their day to day quality of life,” he said.
Metz said people in the West chose to live here because of beautiful public land, national forests and waterways. They also want to see those protected.
Pollsters asked voters to prioritize public land use. Respondents could choose clean water, wildlife habitat preservation and recreational use or they could choose responsible oil and gas drilling.
“And by a margin of 65 to 25, voters across the West said that the higher priority should be put on conservation and protection of those public lands," Metz said.
This is the ninth year that Metz and his group has conducted the survey for Colorado College. He said that while opinions on climate change and other issues have changed one thing about the survey of western voters has not.
“The thing that has been very consistent over time is the high value westerns place on the regions land, water and wildlife,” he said.
(Editor's note: This discussion originally aired February 13, 2019)
David Metz, president, FM3 Research
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