Western voters support renewable energy and the work of federal agencies — survey

Source: Jennifer Yachnin, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, February 14, 2014

DENVER — Looking to win an election in the Mountain West? Then show voters you support renewable energy and don’t suggest selling off federal lands to reduce the budget deficit.

Those recommendations are among the key findings in the annual Conservation in the West Poll by Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project, which the Colorado Springs-based institution released today.

The survey, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling company, and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, a Democratic firm, tested 2,400 voters in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Four hundred voters in each state were asked whether they would support a candidate who took various positions on issues like energy development, conservation and support for federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service.

“Clearly a number of different conservation issues are something that can sway voters,” pollster Lori Weigel said.

Among the survey’s results, 72 percent of those polled said they would be more likely to support a candidate who “wants to promote more use of renewable energy like wind and solar power,” while 29 percent would be more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to end taxpayer support for solar and wind energy companies.

Fifty-four percent of voters also said they would back a candidate who wants to “reduce government red tape” to allow more oil and gas development in their state.

The survey also found voters with positive views of federal agencies including the Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management.

Among those polled, 67 percent of voters said they would be much less likely to back a candidate who votes to reduce funding “for agencies like the U.S. Forest Service.”

The survey also found all four agencies had positive ratings. Voters gave the National Park Service an 84 percent approval rating, the Forest Service a 73 percent approval rating, Fish and Wildlife a 69 percent approval rating and BLM a 52 percent approval rating.

Seventy-two percent of the Western state voters also said they would be less likely to support a candidate who backs selling public lands to reduce the federal budget deficit. Similarly, 74 percent of those polled said they oppose the sale of public lands for that purpose, an increase from 67 percent of those polled on the same question in 2013.

Pollster Dave Metz said that could be a result of the federal government shutdown late last year, when some lawmakers publicly proposed such ideas.

“Whatever the cause there is even firmer opposition today to the notion of selling those lands off,” Metz said.