With 2020 becoming “the year of quarantine”, it’s easy to forget that Nevada and the rest of the American West have so much to offer outdoors. Yet despite all these months of sheltering in place, most voters continue to cherish the region’s public lands and demand more environmental protection. Here’s a timely update on who and what are “Winning the West” in 2020.
First, a quick warning on these “Winning the West” poll numbers
This morning, the Center for Western Priorities released its “Winning the West 2020” poll, conducted by Gottlieb Strategic Research. Just like the Center for Western Priorities’ 2018 poll, the 2020 poll shows that Nevadans and other Western voters continue to back environmental preservation and reject the Trump administration’s anti-environment agenda.
However before we continue with the poll results, I must include this warning: Their Nevada sample looks very different from what we’ve typically seen in general elections for the past decade. CNN’s 2016 exit poll found our electorate consisting of 62% white voters and 38% voters of color that year, including 18% Latinx, 9% African-American, and 6% Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI). CNN’s 2018 exit poll found our electorate as 62% white and 38% voters of color, including 18% Latinx, 10% African-American, and 4% AAPI.
Gottlieb’s 2020 likely voter model, however, has a 75% white electorate for Nevada versus only 7% Latinx voters and 5% African-American. Their likely voter model appears slightly wealthier, much more college educated, and slightly more self-identified Republican than the 2016 and 2018 exit polls showed for Nevada.
So how do Nevadans view the environment in the COVID-19 pandemic era?
Some three years after the Trump administration launched its “review” of multiple national monuments, including Nevada’s Gold Butte and Basin and Range, only 30% of Nevada likely voters (see above) say Nevada has “too much public land” while 58% disagree. Across the larger region (which includes Arizona, Montana, Colorado, and New Mexico), only 18% of likely voters say the American West has “too much public land” while 71% disagree.
While in Las Vegas last December, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt reiterated the Trump administration’s push to expand oil and gas drilling to more federal public lands, even when nearby communities oppose such drilling. Yet according to Gottlieb’s poll, 64% of Nevada likely voters prefer public lands become a “net-zero source of carbon pollution” versus 20% who prefer the status quo. And only 19% of Nevada likely voters support the White House’s overturning of federal environmental protections, while 54% view these protections as “more important now than ever”. And 71% support full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, while 15% oppose restoration of funding for public lands preservation and maintenance.
On the growing controversy surrounding the CARES Act’s corporate aid programs, only 41% of Nevada likely voters support federal bailouts for mining companies, while 47% oppose. Only 38% of Nevada likely voters support federal bailouts for coal companies, while 49% oppose. And only 37% of Nevada likely voters support federal bailouts for oil and gas companies, while 53% oppose. In contrast 79% support federal aid for hospitals and other health care providers, while 69% support federal aid for small businesses affected by COVID-19, 63% support additional federal aid for state governments, and 61% support federal aid for tourism-dependent companies.
Come on, now! Tell us who’s “Winning the West”!
Now that we got through the policy portions, here are the “Winning the West” political numbers you’ve been waiting for. Again, keep in mind that Gottlieb’s likely voter model shows a much whiter and somewhat more affluent Nevada electorate than exit polls showed for 2016 and 2018, so this is probably another “better case scenario” for President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans. Yet even here, Trump only has a 41% approval rating in Nevada with 55% disapproving. In contrast, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) sports a 61% approval rating (with only 31% disapproving). And across the larger five-state region (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Montana), only 40% approve of Trump’s work while 56% disapprove, and the respective state Governors get higher marks across the board.
On the “generic ballot” of Democratic versus Republican congressional candidate, 46% of Nevada voters pick the Democrat and 41% pick the Republican. In Arizona, 45% pick the Democrat and 43% pick the Republican. In Colorado, 49% pick the Democrat and 39% pick the Republican. And even in more GOP-friendly Montana, 42% pick the Democrat and 46% pick the Republican.
When faced with a choice between a candidate who supports science based public health solutions versus a candidate who supports “get[ting] back to our normal way of life as soon as possible”, 46% of Nevada likely voters pick the pro-science candidate while 33% pick the Trumpian candidate. And when faced with a choice between a candidate who supports “balanced” management of public lands versus a candidate who wants more fossil fuel extraction across the board, 48% of Nevada likely voters pick the Sisolak-Sandoval-esque centrist while 20% pick the Trump-esque Republican.
Again, keep in mind that this sample probably does not reflect the full diversity of the general electorate we’ll see this fall. Yet even with that said, this only strengthens Nevada Democrats’ case that they’re on solid footing for November. In addition, this shows just how unpopular Trump’s (anti-)environmental agenda truly is with most voters.