Multi-state Western poll. Arizonans most friendly to environment?

Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Utah, Wyoming , Colorado poll. Arizonans stand out-

Generally speaking Arizona is not thought of as a state especially friendly to environmental policies. Of course a state’s reputation on such things is the result of the real attitudes of the people as channeled by politicians and interpreted by the media.

In early January two polling forms interviewed a random sample of 400 each in six Western States: Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Utah, Wyoming , Colorado. This is 2400 people in total. They asked if providing jobs is compatable with protecting the environment — a view many “conservative” office holders have been trying to discredit, and the “great recession” has given them some encouragement that folks will say “well we have to abandon clean air, water, wildlife if we want to put bread on the table.”

Of the six states it was Arizona where the most people (78%) agreed that is is “possible to protect land and water and have a strong economy with good jobs without having to choose one over the other.”  Well bad news for the pollution lobby in Arizona, though the current legislature there is very pollution (I mean job-) minded.  In all six states, however, there was generally much stronger support for protecting the environment when this trade-off question was directly asked.

There has been a strong move by Western Republicans to abolish environmental protection laws within 100 miles of the border of Mexico and Canada. They say these laws hurt protecting the integrety of the border. In Montana, Republican Representative Dennis Rehberg, who is challenging incumbent Senator Jon Tester, very recently had strong words on this, and he is supporting a bill  that would give U.S. Customs and Border Protection the authority to circumvent 36 federal environmental and wilderness laws in order to give the agency operational control over all federally owned lands within 100 miles of U.S. borders. Senator Tester strongly opposes this.

Overall the survey showed residents of the six states agreed with Tester. In Arizona, 73 percent of the respondents opposed suspending the environmental regulations in the effort to reign in illegal immigration; in New Mexico, 65 percent surveyed were against that proposal; in Colorado the percentage was 68 percent, in Utah 72 percent, in Wyoming 69 percent, and in Montana 66 percent. In other words, Montanans gave the smallest “thumbs down” to protecting the border environment, but still 66% rejected the general approach of challenger Rehberg and 2/3 supported Tester’s general position.

One thing that has always been more or less true, and folks might finally be starting to realize it, is that it isn’t public opinion that counts in many American elections, but who has the  biggest, richest donors behind them. Political organizations are often created mostly by money. Being organized almost always beats the unorganized even when the organized are promoting an unpopular position.

The National Parks Traveler has a much more detailed look at this survey minus my political analysis.  The actual interviews were conducted by two firms, one that leans toward polling for Democrats and one that leans Republican.

Survey of Western Attitudes Shows Strong Support for National Parks, Clean Environment. By Kurt Repanshek on January 31, 2012.


  1. Doryfun Avatar

    It is interesting to note that negative comments and vitriol sometimes appearing in The Wildlife News seems to be a microcosm of the entire negative Republican Ads Campaign (not that Democrats might not soon be adding some) and corresponding behavior to win the elections at any cost.

    Negative ads work. Why?

    It seems to be in the human DNA structure. For example, here in the Riggins area we have jet boat races each spring. Crowds of people gather in far greater numbers at the most dangerous rapids, mostly because they have the best chance of seeing carnage there. For similar reasons, photographers gather like vultures in the same area, trying to get disaster shots of rafters running the same rapids in the high-water whitewater season.

    Unfortunately, we can’t change our DNA (as yet) so our human inclination for gossipy negative story making material will probably prevail. However, until we can get an administrative change of the negative influence of money in politics, I don’t see how we can ever improve upon policies that represent the people and fit the environment, over myopic big business interests and the politicians controlled by such.

    1. WM Avatar


      I didn’t know you were in Riggins. Any chance you know (or in fact are) Scott S./Holly E?

      1. Doryfun Avatar


        As a matter of fact, yes, they are both good friends of mine. Just in case you are wondering, my real name is on my website.

        1. timz Avatar

          Dory,I didn’t know that was you. I took my daughter who was in college at the time, steelhead fishing, your husband was our guide. Since they were both scientist they had a ball conversing. (while we weren’t catching fish). Maybe you remember, as your husband was pulling the boat out at Spring Bar he left the vehicle running and somehow the doors locked. We had to send a passerby to fetch you from town to bring keys. It was a great day and my daughter still talks about it and show off the pictures of her catch.

          1. Doryfun Avatar


            Wow, actually (Dory is male in this case) and I’m the husband whom has been trying to forget about locking myself out of my rig with it still running. I still share that story with a few folks now and then. Pretty funny, though I felt a bit stupid at the time.

            Oh well, if everything went smoothly all the stories would be boring. Hope your daughter is doing well. Tell her hi, please. Fishing should be heating up here soon.

      2. Doryfun Avatar


        You must be a part of the Clearwater Collaboration, TU, or BHA??

        1. WM Avatar


          Actually just friends of friends, plus the the TU connection. We were told to look them up next time we were near Riggins.

          Indeed the internet has reduced “six degrees of separation” down to maybe three.

  2. Alan Gregory Avatar

    Friendliness to the wild land? Not from what I saw around Tucscon, where sprawl development goes right up to the border line of Saguaro National Park.

    1. Doryfun Avatar

      Potential solutions.

      If our country really is a “by the people for the people” nation, then we should be able to figure out a way to get the powerful influence of money out of politics. The unfathomable numbers used by corporations to impose controls (millions, billions) is yet more evidence for the corporate oligarchy we have become.

      If I could play “god” for a day, I would take money out of the equation, give each candidate for president equal air time to lay out their case on the various issues before the public. Each would wear a dog’s shock collar, with controls give to a panel of historians and truth checkers, to administer a shock for every lie or when they engage in name calling. Including a panel of scientists, to keep everything evidence based, and ban religion from the political arena altogether. Maybe add a prerequisite for agnostic supreme court judges with at least fundamental education in science along with their law schooling.

      And I would eliminate lobbying altogether, and offer air time for public debates, in its place to evaluate issues, policies, and directions. Use Facebook to tally votes by the people for the people….just some high flying ideas.

      1. Chris Harbin Avatar
        Chris Harbin

        I really like that shock collar idea! Although my guess is a threshold would have to be established so politicians don’t kill themselves with their reliance on fiction.

  3. Maska Avatar

    Interestingly, the overall numbers for AZ and NM track pretty closely with support for Mexican wolf reintroduction in a poll conducted in the two states in 2008. (Poll results available as PDF’s at the page “More on Mexican Wolves” at

  4. Dude, the bagman Avatar
    Dude, the bagman

    “Political organizations are often created mostly by money. Being organized almost always beats the unorganized even when the organized are promoting an unpopular position.”

    I’ve had the same thought bouncing around my head a lot lately. How can conservationists (or the conservation-minded general public) compete with the kind of tenacious drive for money that’s the sole motivator for the the corporate form’s existence? Citizen advocacy groups are one possibility, but they depend on willing donations from citizens, while those same citizens have little choice to also fund the corporate machine to some degree. We can be somewhat conscientious about where we choose to spend out money, but even us environmentalists still consume energy and need products produced by less than environmentally friendly businesses. If you’re reading this on a computer, you are complicit to some degree.

    Can the average concerned citizen fight effectively in his/her spare time against paid, full time employees and lobbyists working against them? Or is the best we can hope for winning some battles where egregious environmental damage catches the public attention (like rivers catching on fire).

    To me, the practical differences in organizational form and drive certainly cuts against the “corporations are just people” argument I hear espoused by the business-minded. That and limited liability.

  5. Louise Kane Avatar

    Its been a long time since we had a president that expressed concern about protecting ad conserving the environment, our wildlife and wild lands. I think there are a good many people in each party who might agree to support a candidate who identifies conservation as key to his/her agenda. We need to push harder for candidates like this. Our polls are telling us that people care about these issues.

    1. WM Avatar

      Louise, not to burst your bubble, but let’s not fool ourselves. Unfortunately, given the huge near-term issues facing this country, conservation and environmental concerns (which tend to manifest themselves in laws and regulations that increased the cost of doing business and decreases personal freedoms) are not even a fly speck on the radar screen of any candidate, and it is doubtful they will be for a very long awhile, other than giving a little lip service to maybe get a few more votes, while not alienating other pro-industry/corporate interests that can throw money to defeat pro-environment candidates.

      Now you know why Obama is so quiet and careful when he speaks of environmental issues, and chooses middle of the road appointees to cabinet positions.

      1. Dude, the bagman Avatar
        Dude, the bagman

        “conservation and environmental concerns (which tend to manifest themselves in laws and regulations that increased the cost of doing business and decreases personal freedoms)”

        That depends on who you’re talking about. For example, laws regulating pollution discharge increase the cost to the factories discharging pollutants, which is passed onto customers. The party in the best position to bear the burden has to deal with it.

        But the alternative has costs too. The externalities you’re ignoring include the increased healthcare and other costs that releasing pollutants into the environment. Sure, we could take the Ron Paul approach and expect tort and nuisance law to compensate people after the fact, but I’d rather avoid being damaged in the first place rather than being compensated for my cancer (or whatever) later (if I could prove my case in court).

        Ask a commercial salmon fisherman in the NW (if you can find one) if they feel their freedom and business costs would be increased or decreased by tougher water quality standards. Freedom and low costs for agriculture and logging have infringed on the salmon fisherman’s rights to the extent that there aren’t a lot around anymore. Equal and opposite reactions tend to get noticed in an increasingly crowded world.

        And whose freedom are we talking about? The freedom to pollute, or the freedom to be free from someone else’s pollution?

        1. Doryfun Avatar

          Right on Dude,

          More rules and regulations, not less, are needed as more people are added to the planet and complicate the mix. Sure, everyone hates them as they restrict freedoms somewhere. But if we do not impose such measures upon ourselves, we wouldn’t have clean air and water, or any other wise use of our natural resources. There is no free lunch. Part of the price we pay for not bridling human numbers is less freedom.

          The avarice factor of humans would pretty much consume everything possible to exhaustion as the only limit. Free markets, free reign, spell Exhaustion. The current Republican direction is for more of the same. All the chocolate will soon be gone. Then what?

          If corporations would put that money they spend in politics towards their debts to the natural capital that enabled them to get where they are, and is never adequately figured into the true cost of doing business to begin with, it would be good for the environment and might promote a future with a better distribution of sustainable “realistic” freedoms all the way around.

          Note: just having restrictions to prevent toxic water and sky is just a minimum. This does not account for paying other costs that reflect the actual use of natural capital . As they say, capitalism is the worst system, except for all the rest. However, we can make it better by applying all factors, not just those that are convenient, to arrive at a true accounting. If we don’t., the harsh hand of nature awaits us. Her discipline weeds out the garden.

          1. Doryfun Avatar

            Speaking about freedoms. Yesterday Josh Fox was arrested while trying to film a public hearing on “Fracking.” Repuplicans refused him form filming, as well has excluding any non-industry scientists from the hearing.(stacked the deck). So much for transparency and thumbs up for obstructionism. The boogey man should always be hidden in the closet because they can only live in the dark.


        2. WM Avatar


          I am not ignoring the externalities, and I would tend to agree with what you say. However, the harsh reality is that when US business squeals, Wall St. listens and so does the corporate lobbying corps in DC, or at the state level, with their legions of value challenged mercenaries bending ears of elected politicians. The politicians, of course, listen if they want to remain in office.

          The simple solution you suggest to pass on costs to consumers of products for cleaner water, air, etc., does not always work especially if those producers are competing in a world economy where environmental rules are even further down the priority list than here (China, Mexico, South America).

          And the NW fisherman you cite as an examople has alot more to worry about than the logging industry which has pretty much been reigned in. The issues are more complex, as SEAK has noted here before. More and evermore efficient international fishing fleets extracting all the ocean has to offer, sucking it beyond recovery levels. One need only look to the destruction of the Atlantic cod stocks, or the mackeral declines off South America to understand this. And then there is global warming.

          And then, there are the very complex water quality issues associated with municipal and industrial waste water discharges that do not have cost effective treatment methods to remove things like birth control, cholesterol and other drug products we humans use then excrete into these waste streams. The direct and indirect costs of dealing with these impacts seem to get delayed, and until they become epic proportion with imminent doom lurking on a near term horizon solutions won’t be sought. We see adverse effects on aquatic life, but do nothing. Unfortunate way to run a country, but that is the way it is being done with they way our political system works.

  6. somsai Avatar

    I first came across this polling at another web site. It polls the Montana senate race, New Mexico too. Both fairly important political races. When I went to the poll itself I saw what a wealth of information it contained. Especially on environmental issues.

    Roughly half the people in Montana and Wyoming self identify as hunters. Of the hook and bullet crowd a large portion is conservative, Republican, and Tea Party, but half are Dems and Indies. Also the supposed strongest sub group self identifying as conservationists.

    The state by state numbers have surveys on issues important to those states alone. Still reading.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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