Utah Voters Split on Cost of Environmental Protection

New Utah Foundation LogoThe Utah Priorities Project Voter Survey, conducted as part of Utah Foundation’s election year assessment of voter issues, placed concern for the environment at #10 on its top ten issues list.

Among its findings: 48% of voters say stricter environmental controls are worth the cost, while 52% say they are not. The results show a wide gap between conservative and liberal voters, with 73% of conservative voters saying more stringent controls are too costly. 93% of liberal voters hold the opposite position.

The survey also showed a dramatic contrast between urban and rural voters in Utah, with two-thirds of rural voters (66%) saying stricter environmental controls are too costly. That view is shared by only 47% of urban voters.

The polling results on the environment are outlined in a research brief published June 22nd by Utah Foundation. It will be the first of ten on issues identified in the voter survey, conducted in January and February by Dan Jones and Associates. The full results of the survey and the top ten issues listing are included in the research report 2016 Utah Priorities Project: Survey of Voters Issues and Concerns (Part I).

The survey also found that a majority of voters from every background (53%) are quite concerned about the environment, rating their level of concern as high as a four or five on a five-point scale.

The brief also provides a clear analysis of the proposed Public Lands Initiative. It shows public lands would be both more – and less – protected across the seven counties affected by the initiative.

The brief was written by Research Analyst Christopher Collard, who says respondents brought up a number of issues when asked about the environment generally. “Some of those topics that came up were the protection of their natural surroundings, moving to clean energy or promoting clean energy, and also climate change,” said Collard.

“We also asked people whether they thought more land should be open to energy development,” Collard added. “And there was a divide between parties, but overall there’s a pretty good balance, with equivalent numbers. There are about as many people who say there should be more lands open for development as there are who don’t.”

In the past, concern about air quality in Utah has been folded into general questions about the environment in the voter survey. This year, respondents addressed those issues separately. Additional research briefs about water supply and quality and air quality will be published in the coming weeks.