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Winning the West

Regardless of political party, voters across the West favor candidates who balance conservation, economic use, and public enjoyment of our lands.

Western Voters Expect a Balanced Approach

The mountains and outdoor spaces of the West have served as the backdrop for innumerable candidate campaign ads. But recent election cycles have marked a key turning point in which candidate support for American public lands became a prerequisite for public support and statewide electoral success.

Voters across the political spectrum expect a balanced approach in managing conservation, recreation, and responsible energy development. Polling shows that Westerners consistently reject “third-rail” outdoor issues, including selling public lands for private development or handing federal management of public lands over to state governments

Key races in 2018 will demonstrate whether an emerging outdoors voting bloc will continue to take shape with the potential to swing close elections. Candidates running for office in Mountain West states will assuredly try to connect with voters and earn support by showing a passion and respect for the outdoor way of life. In several high profile elections—including Senate races in Montana, Nevada, and New Mexico and the race for Colorado Governor—public lands may end up playing a decisive role in the outcome.

Here are some key facts:

  • 84 percent, 82 percent, and 70 percent of swing voters in Montana, Nevada, and Colorado, respectively, are more likely to support a candidate who protects access to outdoor spaces for outdoor recreation.

  • A balanced, pro-outdoors candidate who prioritizes protecting and providing public access to land, water, and wildlife and supports balanced energy development can sway swing voters regardless of the candidate’s political party.

  • In Montana, Nevada, and Colorado, 69 percent, 74 percent, and 67 percent of swing voters, respectively, are more likely to support a candidate who encourages solar and wind projects on U.S. public lands.

  • In Colorado, 78 percent of swing voters gravitate towards candidates who will help create outdoor recreation jobs.

  • In Nevada, the outdoor recreation and tourism industry is more popular among voters than the gaming industry.

  • In Montana, 99 percent of voters agree that the mountains, wide open spaces, and outdoors are what make living in Montana special.

  • In both Colorado and Montana, 63 percent of swing voters are less likely to support a candidate who wants to open up public lands to more private development.

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Key Reports: