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)

Visualizing environmental trends