Today, Colorado College released its annual Conservation in the West Poll. To hardly anyone’s surprise, Westerners have a strong love for the unique natural landscape surrounding us. Yet to at least some East Coast pundits’ surprise, Westerners aren’t too keen on the Trump administration’s actions that threaten our natural landscape.
So what do the numbers look like, and how should national policymakers interpret them? Here’s what Westerners have to say about their lands, and about the politicians who mess with such lands.
So what do the numbers actually say?
According to this year’s Conservation in the West Poll, 74% of Nevada voters say climate change is a serious problem affecting our state. When it comes to managing public lands, Nevada voters prefer environmental conservation over fossil fuel extraction by a 64-29% spread. By an 82-12% spread, Nevada voters want to restore the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund that Congress allowed to expire last September. And by a 67-30% spread, Nevada voters say they’re willing to pay more taxes to fund environmental programs.
By a 48-24% spread, Nevada voters are not fans of the Trump administration’s decision to allow for fossil fuel extraction in “critical habitat” public lands that were supposed to be protected as sage grouse habitats. And by a 66-13% spread, Nevada voters oppose President Donald Trump’s attempts to revoke protections for National Monuments and open these public lands to fossil fuel extraction and/or other development.
These numbers largely match those of last year’s Center for Western Priorities’ Winning the West Poll, which showed similarly strong support for pro-environment policies while also nailing Senator Jacky Rosen’s (D) 5% margin of victory over former Senator Dean Heller (R) last fall (though they asked “Generic Democrat” vs. “Generic Republican”). As FM3 Research Principal and President Dave Metz (one of the firms who conducted this poll) put it, “There’s the overwhelming sentiment that conservation should be a priority rather than extraction.”
There’s a disconnect between what Nevada voters want and what the Trump administration is doing
Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) opened the press call that unveiled the new poll results, and he used this as an opportunity to highlight his own election victory last fall and his approach to environmental justice: “There’s a clear mandate from Colorado to protect our public lands […] and move towards the future of clean renewable energy.” He then added, “It’s why people choose to live here. It’s part of our way of life.”
About two weeks ago, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak (D) echoed these sentiments when he vowed to take bolder action to combat climate change and protect the state’s public lands. And just yesterday, Sisolak began to take such action in challenging the federal government’s shipment of weapons-grade plutonium into Nevada, originally doing so last fall without the State of Nevada’s knowledge or consent.
On that note, according to this new Conservation in the West Poll, only 11% of Nevada voters want the state to use more nuclear power. While that’s slightly over double the 5% who support more support using more coal and oil (respectively), it’s less than half of the 23% of Nevada voters who support the state using more natural gas. In contrast, a whopping 79% of Nevada voters support using more solar power while 65% support more wind power.
Though environmental issues didn’t always seem to take front and center in last year’s election, they likely did factor into Rosen’s, Sisolak’s, and other Nevada Democrats’ respective victories. And in examining these new poll numbers, we can see the huge disconnect between what Nevada voters want and what the Trump administration is doing. With another election seemingly right around the corner, one during which President Donald Trump himself will face the voters again, Nevada voters will have another opportunity next year to render their verdict and take their own action on these policies.