news releases

15 February 2024

Latinos Show Concern about Water and Public Lands in the 14th Annual Conservation in the West Poll

Category: News Releases

Colorado College’s 14th annual State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll released today revealed that public lands and water issues like habitat loss, access to nature, and water pollution and availability are highly important to Latino voters in the West and play a key role in how they will vote in 2024. 

The poll surveyed the views of voters in eight Mountain West states (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) on pressing issues involving public lands, waters, and climate change. The majority of Latino voters view issues like loss of habitats and declining fish and wildlife populations, inadequate and polluted water supplies, microplastics, uncontrollable wildfires, air pollution, loss of pollinators, and loss of natural spaces as extremely or very serious problems in their state. 78 percent of Latino voters think the effects of climate change in their state over the past 10 years are significant. The levels of concern about climate change, wildlife habitats, water supplies, pollution, and the loss of natural areas are at all-time highs in the poll’s history.

Against that backdrop, conservation is top of mind for Latino Westerners ahead of the 2024 elections. Compared to other issues like the economy, health care, and education, 89 percent of Latino voters in the West say issues involving clean water, clean air, wildlife, and public lands are important in deciding whether to support an elected official. 46 percent of Latino voters describe those issues as “very important.” Conservation issues are especially important among Latino swing voters, which could help decide close elections in key states.

Where Latino voters come down on public lands priorities is decidedly one-sided and in favor of conservation. Asked what they prefer their congressional representatives place more emphasis on in upcoming decisions, 78 percent of Latino voters want to protect clean water, air quality and wildlife habitats while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on public lands. That is compared to just 19 percent of voters who would rather ensure more domestic energy production by maximizing the public lands available for responsible oil and gas drilling and mining. 

By contrast, most voters see no conflict between clean energy production and preserving natural areas for wildlife habitat and the character of local communities. 73 percent of Latino voters in the West agree we can increase clean energy production while preserving natural areas, while only 23 percent say we need to choose between production and preservation.   

“Once again, Latinos show their concern for environmental issues that affect their families and communities and their support for strong and bold climate action,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “Our health and well-being are strongly tied to the health of the environment. If we want to protect those dearest to us and ourselves, we need to protect the lands and wildlife that provide us with clean air and clean water. The Latino community recognizes this bond; it’s part of the culture.”

As seen in Conservation in the West Poll results from previous years, public lands and the outdoors continue to play an important role in Western Latino lifestyle. 58 percent of Latino voters say they visited national public lands three or more times in the past year, compared to only 13 percent of Latino voters who did not visit national public lands in that time. 

Western Latino voters also view connecting with nature as vital for their well-being. 94 percent say spending more time outdoors would help counter growing rates of anxiety, depression, and mental health problems in young people, with 69 percent agreeing it would help a lot.

Notable percentages of Latino voters in the West display the behaviors of committed outdoor enthusiasts. 55 percent of voters say they seek out news on nature, wildlife or recreation, 37 percent listen to podcasts or follow someone online who focuses on nature or the environment, 36 percent have a recreation, hiking, nature, or wildlife app on their phone, and 35 percent donated money or volunteered to help nature or wildlife in the last year. 

The deep connection between Latino Westerners and the outdoors, along with the importance placed on protecting public lands, are reflected in strong support for a variety of conservation policies among Latino Westerners. 

  • 84 percent support the national goal of conserving 30 percent of land and inland waters in America, and 30 percent of its ocean areas, by the year 2030.
  • 86 percent support creating new national parks, national monuments, national wildlife refuges and Tribal protected areas to protect historic sites or areas for outdoor recreation.
  • 78 percent support constructing wildlife crossing structures across major highways that intersect with known migration routes. 
  • 91 percent support managing public lands to ensure there are more outdoor places free of light pollution to better see the stars at night. 
  • Among Colorado Latino voters, 96 percent support protecting public lands surrounding the Dolores River Canyon to conserve important wildlife habitat, safeguard the area’s scenic beauty, and support outdoor recreation.  

This is the fourteenth consecutive year Colorado College gauged the public’s sentiment on public lands and conservation issues. The 2024 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 893 registered Latino voters in each of eight Western states (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT, & WY). The survey was conducted between January 4-21, 2024 and the effective margin of error is +3.3 percent at a 95 percent confidence interval. The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the State of the Rockies Project website.

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