Conventional wisdom holds that environmental stewardship is one of those bright lines separating Republicans and Democrats.
Conventional wisdom in this case is wrong. Many polls demonstrate that people across the spectrum are united around clear conservation values: keeping air and water clean, protecting our parks, forests, and other open spaces for public benefit, and taking a balanced approach to energy development.
Earlier this year, two polling firms—one Republican, the other Democratic—queried a sample of nearly 2,400 voters in six Western states about their attitudes towards conservation. The sample was almost evenly split among Republicans, Democrats, and independents.
Nearly two-thirds of the voters identified themselves as conservationists. Strong majorities across the spectrum agreed with the statement: “We can protect land and water and have a strong economy with good jobs at the same time, without having to choose one over the other.” Majorities who agreed: 75 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of independents, and 84 percent of Democrats.
Last year, the Republican polling firm North Star Opinion Research surveyed Floridians about beaches and cleaning up after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A total of 97 percent agreed Florida’s beaches and near-shore waters are important to the state’s economy. By margins of 6 to 1 or more, Florida voters across the spectrum agreed penalty money collected for the spill should be dedicated to restoring the Gulf Coast. “Regardless of political party or region of the state, this is an issue that unites Florida voters,” a memo from North Star concluded.
Whether you’re talking about estuaries in Florida or backcountry hunting grounds in Montana, Americans, regardless of their political affiliations, value natural assets that bring tangible benefits to their communities and are part of local and regional culture.
Our shared conservation values are essential to what it means to be an American.