Unveiling how Voters really feel about Clean
Air and Water
Public Opinion Research Project undertaken
by the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund
September 28, 2000
Polling Project Overview
Environmental Issues (Clean Air and Water) are not
Top-Tier Concerns for Voters.
MYTH #2: The Public
Thinks That Environmental Laws Go Too Far
Voters believe we must Choose between a Clean Environment
and a Healthy Economy
MYTH #4: In a choice
between a Pro-Environment Candidate and a Pro-Business
Candidate, the Pro-Business Candidate always Wins
MYTH #5: Concern
about Environmental Issues is limited to White Collar,
the Standard Questions for State Polling Project used
the state by state comparison (93k)
In the past year, the League of Conservation Voters Education
Fund (LCVEF) undertook perhaps the most extensive public
opinion research project specific to voter attitudes toward
the environment. Through 22 polls covering 26 states and
one national poll, the LCVEF worked with 12 polling firms,
Democratic and Republican, to complete over 14,600 interviews
with likely voters.
In analyzing the results of the year-long opinion research
project, one thing became abundantly clear: American voters
of all political stripes, of all socioeconomic backgrounds,
and in all parts of the country value clean air and water
and are overwhelmingly willing to factor this concern into
their voting decisions. The findings of this significant
polling project specifically uncovered that many common
expectations about voters views toward environmental
issues are simply not supported by research. In fact, five
common myths about environmental attitudes will be debunked
through the following analysis.
A series of standard questions was asked the same way on
each poll. The uniformity of responses to the standard questions
leaves little doubt that voters rate clean air and water
as top tier issues and strongly prefer pro-environment candidates
to candidates who support fewer regulations on business.
Across the board, voters reject the notion that a clean
environment and a strong economy are mutually exclusive
and they support better enforcement of environmental laws,
or stronger laws.
This polling project has created a new baseline for documenting
movement and trends in public opinion on the environment,
both nationally and in individual states. The LCVEF commissioned
polls in the following states: Alaska, California, Colorado,
Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota,
Montana, Nevada, New England (Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont,
New Hampshire and Rhode Island), New Mexico, New York, North
Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas,
Washington and Wisconsin.
The polling data has been shared with state-based environmental
advocates, state political parties and legislatures, state
government leadership, the media, and is available on the
Internet at www.VoteEnvironment.org. Upon completion of
the polling, LCVEF employees conducted message training
seminars to ensure that state and local environmental groups
take the most effective advantage of the findings.
The sample size, margin of error and polling firm conducting
each poll is detailed on an accompanying page. In addition,
each Environmental Myth is directly addressed
and debunked through the research findings.
MYTH #1: Environmental Issues (Clean
Air and Water) are not Top-Tier Concerns for Voters.
TRUTH: Voters rate clean air and water on par with
other top-tier political concerns like education, crime
and drugs and health care, and generally above taxes and
Medicare and Social Security. In addition, across the board
the vast majority of voters indicate that clean water, clean
air and open space issues are important factors in their
Now I want you to think about the future. Im going
to read you a short list of issues. For each one, please
tell me how concerned you are about that issue on a scale
of zero to ten, in which ten means you are extremely concerned
about the issue, five means you are somewhat concerned,
and zero means you are not at all concerned. Choices: Education,
Crime and Drugs, Health Care, Clean Air and Water, Medicare
and Social Security, the Environment, Taxes, Sprawl and
Overdevelopment, Global Warming
According to the national poll, clean air and water are
in the top tier of issues that concern voters when thinking
about the future. When asked to rate their level of concern
about a variety of issues in the future, 71 percent of voters
indicate extreme concern about clean air and water issues,
placing these issues on par with education (73 percent),
crime and drugs (71 percent), and health care (70 percent),
and above taxes (59 percent).
When asked about clean air and water, voters
respond with much more intensity than when asked the
environment. In all but one of the states polled,
clean air and water topped the environment
as a concern for voters. Only in New York, did voters respond
more favorably to the environment.
In making a voting decision, how important are issues involving
clean water, clean air and open space for you in deciding
how to vote?
· Very important, they are a primary factor in deciding
how to vote;
· Somewhat important, they are one of several issues
· Not very important, they are not necessarily an
issue you consider;
· Not at all important, they are just not a consideration
in deciding how to vote.
In every state polled, a strong majority of voters responded
that clean air, clean water and open space were important
factors in their voting decision. Most notably, the states
in which the highest percentage of respondents said the
issues are very important included: Michigan
(60 percent), Wisconsin (58 percent), Ohio and Montana (both
at 57 percent), and North Carolina (56 percent.) In all
states but one, over 80 percent of voters said that the
environmental issues were very or somewhat
important to their voting decision. Most notably, voters
in the New England region (92 percent), New York and Michigan
(91 percent) and Ohio and Wisconsin (90 percent) said that
the issues were important in their voting decisions.
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MYTH #2: The Public Thinks That Environmental
Laws Go Too Far
TRUTH: Voters overwhelmingly support stricter enforcement
of environmental laws or stronger laws. Very few voters
believe environmental laws should be weakened.
Now let me read you four statements about the environment
and please tell me which comes closest to your own view.
· The laws protecting the environment are not strong
enough and stronger laws should be enacted;
· The current laws are tough enough but they are
not enforced, existing laws should be strictly enforced;
· The current laws and enforcement of those laws
are fine and should be left alone;
· The current laws protecting the environment and
enforcement of those laws are too strict and need to be
On the national poll, voters overwhelmingly called for
government to play a larger role in protecting the environment.
A strong majority (77 percent) supported increased government
involvement, either in the form of stricter regulations
(24 percent) or stronger enforcement of current laws (53
In every state polled, at least 40 percent of voters called
for stronger enforcement of existing laws. States giving
the strongest mandate for stricter enforcement included
Connecticut (63 percent), Ohio and Michigan (60 percent),
and Tennessee, Minnesota and Texas (59 percent). In no state
in which research was conducted did more than 15 percent
of voters believe environmental laws should be weakened.
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MYTH #3: Voters believe we must Choose
between a Clean Environment and a Healthy Economy
TRUTH: A strong majority of voters overwhelmingly
reject the notion that we must choose between the environment
and the economy. Voters recognize compatibility between
a clean environment and a strong economy. Growing consciousness
about the environment, environmental gains made over the
past 30 years, and the current vibrant economy have created
an atmosphere in which voters are unwilling to make a tradeoff
between a clean environment and a strong economy.
Voters strongly reject the notion that we must choose
between a strong economy and a clean environment. This is
a false choice for most voters. Fred Yang, Garin-Hart-Yang
Please tell me which of these statements comes closest
to your own views, even if neither of the statements matches
your views exactly:
· We can have a clean environment and a strong economy
at the same time without having to choose one over the other;
· Sometimes a clean environment and a strong economy
are in conflict and we must choose one over the other.
According to the national poll, a large majority of voters
(71 percent) reject the notion that a clean environment
and a strong economy are mutually exclusive, compared to
a minority (22 percent), who feel that a choice between
the economy and the environment must be made.
In every state polled, over two-thirds of voters believe
we can have both a clean environment and healthy economy
at the same time without having to choose one over the other.
Voters in Alaska (82 percent), Idaho (80 percent), Minnesota
(79 percent), Tennessee and Connecticut (both at 78 percent)
felt most strongly that a choice does not have to be made.
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MYTH #4: In a choice between a Pro-Environment
Candidate and a Pro-Business Candidate, the Pro-Business
Candidate always Wins
TRUTH: A pro-environment candidate has a significant
advantage with voters over a candidate who supports less
government regulation on business. Across the board, a strong
majority of voters, knowing nothing else about a candidate,
favor the pro-environment candidate.
American voters clearly favor candidates that support
tough laws to protect air, land and water. One the other
hand, voters are far less likely to back candidates who
will roll back environmental regulations in order to help
business. John Fairbank, Fairbank, Maslin,
Maullin & Assoc.
Now let me read you two short statements about two candidates
and please tell me which one you favor
· Candidate A believes we must protect the environment
and supports strong laws and enforcement of those laws;
· Candidate B believes there are too many government
regulations and supports efforts to relieve the burden of
regulation on business.
If you had to choose, which candidate would you favor?
If you arent sure, you can tell me that too.
On the national poll, a large majority of voters characterized
environmental issues as important to their vote decision,
and without any further information about a candidate, they
would support a strong environmentalist candidate over one
who favors less regulation on business by an impressive
78 to 15 percent margin.
A majority of voters in every state polled except Alaska
are more likely to support pro-environment candidates over
those who would reduce government regulation on business.
In Alaska, a plurality of those polled agreed. Polls on
which over three-quarters of voters support the pro-environment
candidate include: Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Maryland
(82 percent), New York and New England (81 percent), Tennessee
(79 percent), the national poll (78 percent), Wisconsin
(77 percent) and Ohio (76 percent).
Lifestyle issues dominate when we have a strong economy.
The environment is the ultimate lifestyle issue. Brian
Tringali, The Tarrance Group
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MYTH #5: Concern about Environmental
Issues is limited to White Collar, Well-Educated Voters
TRUTH: Clean air and clean water are important to
a vast majority of votersperiod. Young and old, well-educated
and uneducated, white, African-American, and Hispanic, white
collar and blue collarvoters of all socioeconomic
backgrounds are concerned about the quality of their air
and water and prefer candidates who vow to protect the environment.
Clean water and clean air are seen as critical health
issues to all segments of the American electorate. Our research
shows that regardless of their age, gender, race, income
or educational attainment, voters consider protecting air,
land and water a primary factor in how they vote.
--John Fairbank, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Assoc.
In Pennsylvania, this concern reaches across all groupsthe
environment is not an important issue among just young and
affluent voters. In fact, in Pennsylvania, although voters
of all ages are concerned about clean air and water, older
voters are more concerned about the issue than are younger
voters. Blue-collar workers are nearly as concerned about
the environment as are white-collar workers.
A solid majority of Marylanders are very concerned (rating
of 8 to 10 on a 10-point scale) about clean air and water
(66 percent) and the environment (61 percent). This concern
reaches across all groups; however, women, blacks, and urban
dwellers are somewhat more concerned about these issues
than are other voters.
Contrary to popular belief, the environment is not
an important issue just among young and affluent voters.
In fact, voters of lower socioeconomic status are often
the people who directly face the consequences of environmental
degradation, so their strong support for stronger environmental
protection is not surprising. --Fred Yang, Garin-Hart-Yang
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