Voters in Arizona and across the West are increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change on the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains. That’s the main message of Colorado College’s 12th Annual Western Conservation Survey.
The poll found voters in Eight western states along the Continental Divide are concerned about issues such as drought, insufficient water supplies, wildfires, and the loss of wildlife habitats and natural areas.
Surveyor and director of the New Bridge Strategy firm, Lori Weigel, said most of the 3,400 people surveyed said they feared for the future of the earth.
“Climate change was the main reason people were telling us they were feeling pessimistic,” Weigel said. “I have no doubt that a majority in every state told us that they felt more worried than more optimistic when thinking about the future of nature.”
In Arizona, nearly 70% of respondents shared this concern. And 84% of Arizonans said politicians’ stance on the environment is either “important or very important” in determining whether they support a candidate in an election.
Pollster and director and chairman of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates – Dave Metz – said public officials pay great attention to the annual survey when making decisions on conservation issues.
He said the survey gives lawmakers a clearer view of how most people feel, as opposed to a small group that may be passionate about a particular issue.
“That little vocal group can sometimes have an outsized presence in an elected official’s mind,” Metz said. “And the poll can sometimes say, ‘No, it’s not – that in fact there is a different opinion that may not be shared as vocally but is widely held. “”
Metz said water is a top concern, with drought and reduced snowfall driving the highest levels of anxiety. Other issues included more frequent and severe wildfires, air quality, extreme heat and severe weather.
Pollsters say they went the extra mile this year to include Native Americans and people of color, oversampling several groups to gauge their concerns.
Shanna Edberg, director of conservation programs for the Hispanic Access Foundation, said marginalized communities are often the most impacted by the climate.
“Latinos have this clear vision of the way forward to protect the environment,” Edberg said, “because it’s Latino health, homes, and jobs that are largely at stake. When Latino children are two times more likely than white children to die from asthma, reducing air pollution is a matter of life and death for our communities.”
The full results of the Conservation in the West poll are online at ‘ColoradoCollege.edu.’
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