Politics

Public opinion and conservation funding

This presentation examines the results of public opinion surveys on environmental issues and some of the main sources of funding for conservation in the West: the federal government, ballot measures, and philanthropy.

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Key points: public opinion

  • The environment doesn’t rank high on the public’s agenda, but a majority of Americans remain concerned about a wide variety of environmental problems
  • The public agrees with many of the environmental movement’s policy goals, but only about a fifth of Americans identify themselves as active participants
  • The Great Recession has shifted public opinion away from environmental concerns over the past few years
  • Air and water pollution tend to be the most worrisome environmental issues
  • Disasters, such as the BP oil spill, can cause spikes of interest in environmental issues
  • Who’s in the White House can influence perceptions of environmental quality: the 2008 election led more Americans to say things are improving
  • Americans remain split on global warming, especially along party lines, with a significant percentage saying the threat is exaggerated and will not affect their lives

Key points: conservation funding

  • Federal funding
    • In real terms, the budgets of major environmental agencies have been fairly steady over the past decade
    • The distribution among different programs also tends to remain relatively constant
  • Ballot measures
    • Open-space bonds and other conservation measures usually pass at the polls, but considerably fewer have been put to voters during the economic downturn
  • Philanthropic
    • The distribution of funding by issue area changes significantly from year to year
    • Energy and climate-related funding saw big increases from 2007 to 2009 (the most recent data available)

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