The poll, which surveyed the views of voters in eight Mountain West states (Ariz., Colo., Idaho, Mont., Nev., N.M., Utah, and Wyo.), on pressing issues involving public lands, waters and climate change. The poll found 70 to 90 percent of voters are concerned about the future of nature, meaning land, water, air, and wildlife. Despite trying economic conditions and concerns around gas prices, cost of living, drought and water shortages, their level of concern for things like loss of habitat for fish and wildlife, inadequate water supplies, pollution in the air and water, the loss of pollinators, uncontrollable wildfires, and climate change outpaced the overall level of concern of economic conditions.
“Latinos are continuing to show their strong support for climate action and concern in environmental issues affecting their communities,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “"When we talk about conservation, we're talking about much more than protecting land, waters and climate that surrounds us. Conservation is also having to do with our health, the economy, work and social justice."
Western Latinos’ heightened concerns about their natural landscapes are matched with strong consensus behind proposals to conserve and protect the country’s outdoors.
- 79 percent of Latinos support achieving a national goal of conserving thirty percent of land and inland waters in America and thirty percent of ocean areas by the year 2030.
- 70 percent of Latinos support only allowing oil and gas companies the right to drill in areas of public land where there is high likelihood to actually produce oil and gas.
- 83 percent of Latinos support gradually transitioning to 100 percent of our energy being produced from clean, renewable sources like solar, wind, and hydropower over the next ten to fifteen years.
- 89 percent of Latinos support creating new national parks, national monuments, national wildlife refuges and tribal protected areas to protect historic sites or areas for outdoor recreation.
- 87 percent of Latinos of voters in the West support directing funding to ensure adequate access to parks and natural areas for lower-income people and communities of color that have disproportionately lacked them.
Conservation intersects with equity concerns
The poll broke new ground this year in examining the intersection of race with views on conservation priorities. Results were separated by responses from Black, Latino, and Native American voters, along with combined communities of color findings. The poll included an oversample of Black and Native American voters in the region in order to speak more confidently about the view of those communities.
The poll found notably higher percentages of Black voters, Latino voters, and Native American voters to be concerned about climate change, pollution of rivers, lakes, and streams, and the impact of oil and gas drilling on our land, air, and water. The poll also found higher levels of support within communities of color for bold conservation policies like the 30 percent conservation by 2030 effort, transitioning to one hundred percent renewable energy, and making public lands a net-zero source of carbon pollution.
Furthermore, the poll showed a desire by strong majorities of Western voters for equitable access to public lands and to ensure local communities are heard. 84 percent of voters in the West support directing funding to ensure adequate access to parks and natural areas for lower-income people and communities of color that have disproportionately lacked them. 87 percent of voters in the West support ensuring that Native American tribes have greater input into decisions made about areas within national public lands that contain sites sacred to or culturally important to their tribe.
Sights on a cleaner and safer energy future on public lands
With oil and gas drilling taking place on half of America’s public lands, Western voters are well aware of the harmful impacts and want to ensure their public lands are protected and safe. 90 percent of Latino voters support requiring oil and gas companies to use updated equipment and technology to prevent leaks of methane gas and other pollution into the air and 88 percent support requiring oil and gas companies to pay for all of the clean-up and land restoration costs after drilling is finished. Nearly three-fourths of all Western voters want to significantly curb oil and gas development on public lands. 70 percent of Latinos think that oil and gas development should be strictly limited.
Growing support for water protections
The level of concern among Westerners around water and the Colorado River issues is growing. 100 percent of Latino voters support protecting sources of drinking water and 69 percent are worried about inadequate water supplies. 70 percent Latinos believe the Colorado River and the rivers and streams which flow into it are at risk and 88 percent believe there is a problem when it comes to the current shortage of water supplies in the West.
To combat the issue, 94 percent of Latino support investing in water infrastructure to reduce leaks and waste. 85 percent believe in providing financial incentives to homeowners and businesses to replace lawns and grassy areas with water-saving landscaping. 87 percent believe we should require local governments to determine whether there is enough water available before approving new residential development projects.
This is the thirteenth consecutive year Colorado College gauged the public’s sentiment on public lands and conservation issues. The 2023 Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll is a bipartisan survey conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of New Bridge Strategy and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. The survey is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
The poll surveyed at least 400 registered voters in each of eight Western states (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT, & WY) for a total 3,413-voter sample, which included an over-sample of Black and Native American voters. The survey was conducted between January 5-22, 2023 and the effective margin of error is +2.4% at the 95% confidence interval for the total sample; and at most +4.9% for each state. The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the State of the Rockies website.