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Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences

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New Study: Political Affiliation, Minorities, and Nature’s Services

Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012

New analysis on the intersection of politics and nature was released today in the latest issue of the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. The authors, Michelle Marvier of Santa Clara University and Hazel Wong of The Nature Conservancy, drew from national public opinion surveys from last eight years. 

The work may provide insight to the coming elections on November 6, when more than 60 conservation-related state initiatives will be decided by voters across the country.

Their analysis highlights several findings:

  • More than three-quarters of those polled believed the United States could have both a strong economy and good land and water protections. (To date Gallup polls have only framed this question as jobs versus the environment).  
  •  A majority of Americans, including 51.4% of Republicans, would be willing to accept a small increase in state or local taxes to pay for land and water protections.
  • Voters of color were much more likely than white voters to think that natural services (such as the production of marketable products and storm protection) are “extremely important”.
  •  Conservation communities’ emphasis on protecting  nature for its intrinsic values isn’t appealing to self- identified Republicans and Independents. They see nature benefits such of clean water, recreation and economics as reasons for conserving land, water and wildlife.

“These studies reveal that Americans care deeply about the outdoors, and the benefits that nature provides us,” said co-author Hazel Wong.  “Our elected officials around the country should be aware that it’s in their interest to be responsive to nature’s strong, bipartisan constituency.”

Michelle Marvier commented, “It’s time for conservationists to quit preaching only to the choir. Protecting nature for its own sake is all well and good, but to regain broad public support we need to emphasize and demonstrate that protecting nature is in the best interest of people.”

The paper's abstract can be accessed here.