Briefline

Voters in Western states increasingly concerned about climate change, survey shows

By: - March 1, 2022 12:52 pm
Marshall Fire aftermath

Laurie Silver of Lafayette takes in what remains of her cousin’s condo in the aftermath of the Marshall Fire on Dec. 31, 2021, in Louisville. (Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

Voters in eight Western states are increasingly concerned about the future of air, water and wildlife, according to the 2022 Colorado College State of the Rockies project survey results. 

The survey — which was conducted by New Bridge Strategy and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates — asked voters in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming questions about issues in the Rocky Mountains region, including climate change, political identity and conservation. 

Percentage of poll respondents who said climate change is a serious problem

  • 2011: 55%
  • 2020: 66%
  • 2021: 75%
  • 2022: 77%

According to the According to the 2022 key findings of the Western states survey 

“We are seeing a perfect storm of threats that are driving higher levels of concern than ever before for the state of our lands and water in the Mountain West,” Katrina Miller-Stevens, director of the State of the Rockies Project and an associate professor at Colorado College, said in a statement earlier this month. “Not surprisingly, most voters are aligning behind policies that would help mitigate threats by conserving and protecting more outdoor spaces.”

Almost 80% of voters from the eight states are concerned about worsening air quality due to ozone and smoke and over 60% are concerned about extreme weather events, like intense storms or floods, according to the statement. 

Climate change

Over 75% of voters said climate change is a serious problem, which is an increase from previous years, according to the poll’s 2022 key findings PowerPoint presentation.

​​In Colorado, 58% of voters said climate change is an extremely or very serious problem and 17% said climate change is not a problem. In New Mexico, Colorado’s neighbor to the south, 54% of voters said climate change is an extremely or very serious problem and 24% said it’s not a problem, according to the 2022 Western states survey. In Wyoming, 42% of voters said climate change is an extremely or very serious problem, and 36% said it’s not a problem. 

Environmental activists have organized rallies — including one during Polis’ State of the State address in January — to draw attention to the increasing number of environmental disasters related to climate change in Colorado.

Despite the scientific consensus that climate change is real and is caused by human action, some lawmakers in Colorado have expressed doubt about the science and have opposed climate action.

Activist Lucy Molina speaks at a rally calling on Colorado policymakers to act more aggressively on climate change on Sept. 16, 2021. (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline)

Twenty-two percent of all voters indicated that concern about climate change has been greatly exaggerated; in Colorado, 18% of voters said this, according to the survey results. Over 60% of all voters said that climate change has either been established as a serious problem or that there is enough evidence that climate change is taking place, and that immediate action or some action should be taken. 

One-in-four voters in Colorado said air pollution and smog is an extremely serious problem, and over 30% of voters in Colorado said it’s a very serious problem, according to the survey results. Less than 10% of Colorado voters said air pollution and smog is not a problem. 

Like voters in other states, Coloradans are concerned about droughts and the loss of natural habitat.

Percentage of voters by state who said drought is either an extremely serious or very serious problem

  • Arizona: 68%
  • Colorado: 80%
  • Idaho: 59%
  • Montana: 68%
  • Nevada: 77%
  • New Mexico: 73%
  • Utah: 81%
  • Wyoming: 65%

According to the 2022 Western states survey results

In 2016, 31% of voters in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming said a public official’s stance on the environment is either very important or a primary factor in deciding whether to support an elected public official. This year, 41% of voters in those states said a public official’s stance is either very important or a primary factor in deciding whether to support the elected public official.

Black voters were the most concerned about loss of natural areas, with almost 60% of all Black voters indicating that the loss of natural areas is either an extremely serious or very serious problem. 

The group that was most concerned with inadequate water supplies and the loss of habitat for fish and wildlife were Native American voters, with 60% of Native American voters saying the loss of habitat for fish and wildlife is either an extremely serious or very serious problem, and 80% of Native American voters saying inadequate water supplies is either an extremely serious or very serious problem, according to the voters of color survey results.

Almost 9-in-10 voters said inadequate water supply is at least a serious problem, according to the water section of the survey report. Voters in Colorado and Utah are the most concerned about droughts and reduced snowpack.

Almost 80% of voters in the eight states are very or somewhat concerned about worsening air quality due to ozone and smoke. Colorado and Utah were tied for the greatest percentage of voters — 84% — who indicated that they are very or somewhat concerned about worsening air quality due to ozone and smoke. 

Percentage of voters who think the pollution of rivers, lakes and streams is either an extremely serious or very serious problem

  • Black voters: 71%
  • Native American voters: 59%
  • Latino voters: 50% 
  • White voters: 56% 

According to the 2022 voters of color survey results

Colorado had the highest percent of voters indicating that wildfires in the West are more of a problem than 10 years ago. Over 75% of Colorado voters said wildfires in the West are more of a problem than 10 years ago, with 1% saying wildfires are less of a problem than 10 years ago.

Montanans and Coloradans were the most concerned about more frequent and severe wildfires, compared to voters in other states, with 88% of voters in Colorado and 92% of voters in Montana saying they are either very or somewhat concerned about the more frequent and severe wildfires.

Gov. Jared Polis announced a state of emergency last year as a grass fire in Boulder County grew to about 6,000 acres and destroyed more than a thousand homes. The Marshall Fire is the most destructive fire in Colorado history.

Over 60% of voters from the eight states want to encourage the use of solar power in their state and 37% want to encourage the use of wind power, according to the survey results. Over 60% of voters in Colorado want to encourage the use of solar power and over 40% want to encourage the use of wind power. 

Almost 75% of all voters said they strongly support requiring gas and oil companies, rather than the federal and state government, to pay for the clean-up and restoration of land after drilling is finished. 

Percentage of voters in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming who said the impact of oil and gas drilling on land, air and water is a serious problem

  • 2011: 61%
  • 2020: 67%
  • 2021: 65%
  • 2022: 70%

According to the 2022 key findings of the Western states survey

In Colorado, 75% of voters think that oil and gas development on national public lands should be stopped or strictly limited, as opposed to expanded. 

Almost 45% of voters from the eight states said they strongly support providing funding to ensure that more communities, especially communities that have historically lacked access, have safe and nearby parks and natural areas, according to survey results. In Colorado, 48% of voters said they strongly support this and 2% said they strongly oppose this. 

Eighty-eight percent of Black and Latino voters said that issues involving clean water, wildlife and public lands are important in deciding whether they will support an elected public official, according to the Black voters and Latino voters summary reports. 

Over 75% of all voters indicated that they support setting a national goal of protecting 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030. In Colorado, 83% of voters support setting this national goal, according to the Colorado state summary report.

Percentage of voters by race who feel more worried about the future of nature, including land, water and air

  • Black voters: 65% 
  • Native American voters: 71% 
  • Latino voters: 68% 
  • White voters: 70%

According to the 2022 voters of color survey results

Almost 90% of Black voters support a national goal of protecting 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030, according to the Black voters summary report.

Politics

More than 35% of all voters said they are registered as a Republican, 31% said they are registered as a Democrat and 31% said they are registered as independent or something else. In Colorado, 30% said they are registered as a Republican, 33% said Democrat and 36% said independent or something else. 

Almost 30% of voters in Colorado said that generally speaking, they consider themselves to be conservative on most issues and 23% of Colorado voters said they consider themselves liberal on most issues. 

Of voters across the eight states, 37% said they consider themselves conservative on most issues, 38% said moderate and 22% said liberal. 

Wyoming was the state with the greatest percentage of voters — 51% — saying they are conservative on most issues. The state with the greatest percentage of voters — 38% — identifying as liberal on most issues was New Mexico. 

Colorado had the greatest percentage of voters — 45% — identifying as moderate on most issues. 

More than half of Republicans, almost 80% of Independents and almost all Democrats said that climate change is a serious problem, according to the climate change summary report.

Almost 60% of Black voters said that compared to other issues, like the economy and health care, issues involving clean water, clean air, wildlife and public land are a primary factor in deciding whether to support an elected public official, according to the voters of color survey results. Almost 40% of white voters, 50% of Native American voters and 45% of Latino voters said issues involving clean water, clean air, wildlife and public land are a primary factor in deciding whether to support an elected public official. 

Over 75% of Republicans, over 85% of Independents and over 95% of Democrats said a public official’s position on conservation issues will be an important factor in determining if they will support the public official, according to the key findings presentation.

The outdoors

Almost 90% of voters from the eight states said they think they have visited national public lands, such as national monuments or parks, at least once within the last year. Almost 20% of voters said they visited national public lands more than 20 times within the last year. 

Wyoming had the greatest percentage — 94% — of voters who said they think they have visited a national public land at least once within the last year. New Mexico had the lowest percentage, at 86% of voters who think they have visited a national public land within the last year. 

The survey found that Black voters are less likely to have visited national public lands compared to voters of other races. 

Almost 50% of voters said they participate in camping on a regular basis and almost 75% said they hike, run or walk on a regular basis. 

Almost all voters from each state said the rising cost of living is a serious problem, with 2-in-5 voters saying it’s an extremely serious problem. 

Percentage of voters by race who think the rising cost of living is either an extremely serious or very serious problem

  • Black voters: 81%
  • Native American voters: 82%
  • Latino voters: 75% 
  • White voters: 73% 

Percentage of voters by state who think the rising cost of living is either an extremely serious or very serious problem

  • Arizona: 73%
  • Colorado: 73%
  • Idaho: 77%
  • Montana: 82%
  • Nevada: 79%
  • New Mexico: 67%
  • Utah: 80%
  • Wyoming: 74%

According to the 2022 Western states survey results

Over 85% of voters said the price of gasoline is a serious problem in their state, with 28% saying it’s an extremely serious problem. 

Age groups

The majority of voters of all ages are worried about the future of nature, with 70% of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 saying they are worried about the future of nature, according to the climate change report.

Voters under the age of 35 were the most likely to say that action needs to be taken on climate change.

Almost 75% of voters under 35 said they support gradually transitioning their state to 100% renewable energy over the next 10 to 15 years, according to the energy topic summary report. 

Compared to other issues like the economy, healthcare and education, issues involving clean water, clean air, wildlife and public lands are very important or a primary factor for 45% of voters under 35, according to the key findings presentation.

Colorado

Almost 30% of voters in Colorado indicated that they lived in Colorado all of their life and 6% of voters said they lived here less than 5 years. 

Almost 90% of voters in Colorado said that issues involving clean water, wildlife and public lands are important in deciding whether they will support an elected public official, according to the Colorado state summary report.

Over 40% of Colorado voters graduated college and over 20% graduated from graduate or professional school. Twenty percent of voters from the eight states graduated from graduate or professional school and 38% of voters graduated college. 

Almost 90% of voters in Colorado said they are either very concerned or somewhat concerned about droughts and reduced snowpack, and almost 75% of voters in Colorado said they are either very concerned or somewhat concerned about extreme heat.

Colorado had the greatest percentage — 69%— of voters who said they were concerned about extreme weather events.

About the survey

This is the twelfth year that Colorado College has measured the views of registered voters living in Western states. The poll, which was conducted in English and Spanish, surveyed at least 400 registered voters in each of the eight states between Jan. 5 and 23, with a total of over 3,400 people participating in the survey, according to Colorado College’s statement.

The bipartisan survey was conducted by Lori Weigel, a Republican pollster of New Bridge Strategy, and Dave Metz, a Democratic pollster of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates is a Democratic opinion research firm and New Bridge Strategy is a Republican opinion research firm, according to Colorado College’s statement. 

The survey was funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which describes itself on its website as a nonpartisan, private charitable foundation that advances ideas and supports institutions to promote a better world. 

The number of states included in the survey has increased since the first year it was conducted. In 2011, voters in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming were interviewed, and Arizona was added the next year. In 2016, Nevada was added and Idaho was added in 2018.

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