Montana voters rate protection of clean air and water as important as education, health care, and taxes

Helena - Montana voters are very concerned about the protection of clean air and clean water, and they rate this issue on par with education and health care and above taxes, says a new poll released today. The poll also found that voters think protecting clean air, water, and open space should be a top priority for elected leaders, and environmental actions figure strongly in voting decisions.

The Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates poll of six hundred likely November 2000 voters indicates a strong commitment to environmental protection by voters in all parts of the state and across party lines. The poll was taken from January 20 to 24, 2000 for the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund and Montana Conservation Voters Education Fund.

"This poll shows that at a fundamental level, Montanans care a great deal about protecting clean air, water and open spaces. In fact, they rank clean air and clean water at the same level as education, health care, and taxes," said Theresa Keaveny, Executive Director of Montana Conservation Voters Education Fund. On a scale from zero to 10, where 10 is extremely concerned and zero is not at all concerned, voters rated clean air and water a 6.9, compared to 7.1 for education, 7.0 for health care, and 6.8 for taxes. "It is important to point out that Montanans translate their concerns about environmental issues to elections, ranking them as a primary concern in casting their vote, and in their support of candidates who want to protect air, water, and open space," Keaveny continued.

Highlights of the poll:
73% of voters say protecting the quality of drinking water is either an extremely or very serious problem, and another 19% say it somewhat serious; only eight percent say it is not too serious a problem.
66% of voters say protecting rivers, lakes, and streams is an extremely or very serious problem, with an additional 23% indicating it is somewhat serious.
Montana voters show their concern for environmental issues at the ballot box, with 57% percent saying clean air, water, and open space are a very important and primary factor in deciding how to vote.
55% of Montana voters say that they would support an environmental candidate over a candidate that supports fewer regulations. When campaign contributions are considered, the pro-environmental candidate who has been endorsed by and taken campaign contributions from environmental groups leads by an even larger margin (60%-26%) the candidate who has supported efforts to relieve the burden of regulations on business and who has taken campaign contributions from developers and corporations that were known polluters.
71% of those polled feel that we can have a clean environment and a strong economy. Of the 24% who said that a choice must be made between a clean environment and a strong economy, 49 % choose a clean environment.
66% of Montana voters want either tougher enforcement of environment laws or stronger laws. Keaveny said voters come down convincingly on the pro-environment side of the specific environmental issues tested in the survey.
62% of Montana voters support the national roadless plan, saying they support protecting the 40 million acres of roadless national forest lands, including 6 million acres in Montana, from new roadbuilding, leaving existing roads and trails in place.
72% of voters want to take action to address game farms, whether through tougher regulation, outright bans, or a moratorium.
59% of the voters say they support the ban on the cyanide heap leach mining process (I-137), that was voted on in November 1998.
68% of Montana voters want to retain the Montana Environmental Policy Act as is, supporting assessment of project impacts on the environment, consideration of alternatives and ample public participation. Strong majorities of all voter groups hold this view.
61% of those polled said that the state should protect state lands and preserve them for future generations, rather than develop them further. Keaveny said that while voters rank clean air and water as the highest of their environmental concerns, they also support proposals addressing growth and development and protection of open space.
74% of voters said developers should pay impact fees on new housing projects to cover the costs of development. Projects should be consistent with community planning requirements.
79% said counties should develop master plans and zoning laws to manage growth and development.
62% said that the state and counties should work with private land trusts and farmers and ranchers to buy development rights on their land to prevent its loss to development. Farmers and ranches would still own the land but could not sell it for development.
58% percent of the voters believed loss of farm and ranch land to be a serious problem for the environment.
55% of voters believe that regulations to address the expansion of large scale livestock feedlots and hog facilities should be established to protect air, land and water from pollution, before more operations are built.

Click here to download the PDF version of the Montana poll summary!

This memo is based on the findings of a telephone survey conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates from January 20 to 24, 2000. Six hundred (600) likely November 2000 general election voters in the State of Montana were selected at random and interviewed by trained, professional telephone interviewers. The margin of error for the overall survey results is +/-4.0 points.

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