Conservation remains a winning election issue in the West, new poll finds

Aug 17, 2023

87 percent of Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada voters say a candidate’s support of public land conservation is important to how they will vote; strong local support for national monument proposals.

Denver—Today, the Center for Western Priorities released its latest “Winning the West” poll showing public lands conservation remains a winning election issue for Western voters in Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada.

Heading into next year’s elections, 87 percent of Western voters—with strong majorities across parties—say a candidate’s support for conservation plays an influential role in how they choose to cast their ballots. 40 percent describe a candidate’s support for conservation as “very important” to their voting decision.

Specifically, 71 percent of Western voters say they are more likely to support a candidate who prioritizes protecting public lands from being taken over by private developers and oil and mining companies. 71 percent also say the same thing about a candidate who supports protecting and investing in national parks and monuments.

In regard to the Biden administration, 74 percent of Western voters say doing more to protect and conserve public lands, parks, wildlife, and national monuments would make them view the administration more favorably. That view is held by 93 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of Independents, and 53 percent of Republicans.

Western voters voters are supportive of the Biden administration making progress on its own if necessary, with 67 percent saying they support the use of executive authority to designate land or water as a national monument if it holds unique cultural, historical, or natural significance.

Public lands play a notable role in the lifestyles of most Western voters. 65 percent say they visit public lands at least a few times a year. Similarly, the significance of conservation is increasing among Western voters with 61 percent saying public lands, parks, and wildlife issues have become more important to them over the past few years. That includes 28 percent of voters who say conservation issues are “much more” important to them than previously.

As the importance of conservation issues continues to grow, so do voters’ concerns about the threats to public lands:

  • 87 percent of Western voters say they are concerned about losing open spaces, natural areas, wildlife habitat, and America’s most beautiful landscapes (54 percent are “very concerned”).
  • 86 percent are concerned about oil and mining companies, huge foreign-owned corporations, and developers making record profits off America’s land, but not paying their fair share for the damage (54 percent are “very concerned”).
  • 87 percent are concerned about corporations and developers harming the lands and waters we use for outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing (52 percent are “very concerned”).
  • 78 percent are concerned about the effects of a changing climate, like floods, droughts, and wildfires, on our public lands (51 percent are “very concerned”).

In light of those concerns Western voters want to see more conservation efforts:

  • 66 percent of voters want more regulation of oil, gas, and mining corporations that operate on federal lands.
  • 70 percent want to see the creation and protection of more national monuments on public lands with significant historical, scenic, or scientific value for the future.
  • 73 percent want more done to address overcrowding and better maintain national parks, public lands, and national monuments.
  • 66 percent want more protections for public access for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation.

Local monument proposals are popular among voters in the states surveyed. 79 percent of voters in Arizona support the recently-designated Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument. 84 percent of voters in Colorado support the Dolores River Canyon Country national monument proposal. 77 percent of voters in Nevada support the Bahsahwahbee national monument proposal (locally known as Swamp Cedars).

When it comes to conservation efforts, Western voters are much more concerned the government will not do enough to protect natural resources (63 percent) than are concerned the government will go too far with regulations and restrictions (37 percent).

To that end, 67 percent of Western voters support the Bureau of Land Management’s recently proposed rule that would instruct land managers to treat land restoration and conservation as a use of the land equal to other uses such as mining, oil drilling, and grazing.

Mining on public lands is getting more attention because of the increasing need for minerals that are used in the production of solar panels, batteries, and other clean energy technology. 84 percent of Western voters say it is important to update and modernize the Mining Act of 1872 in order to strengthen environmental safeguards and require companies to pay a royalty for mining on public lands. When asked why mining regulations have not been updated, 63 percent of Western voters point to industry influence in the form of lobbying and political contributions.

When it comes to energy development, 59 percent of Western voters say we need to prioritize renewable resources on public lands, with careful management of our land and natural resources. That is compared to 41 percent who say we need to use all available options to make energy prices affordable again and that means increasing oil and gas drilling wherever oil is available, including on public lands.

The poll also examines the views of a growing “outdoor voter” bloc in the West. Outdoor voters are defined as 2024 likely voters who say conservation issues are important in deciding how they vote, who say public lands, parks, and wildlife are more important to them in the last few years, who participate in conservation activities, and who visit public lands frequently. These voters skew Democratic and Independent, ideologically liberal, female, and disproportionately younger, but are otherwise fairly similar in demographic profile to Western voters at large and are spread nearly evenly across all three states surveyed.

“Outdoor voters are up for grabs for candidates who support the environmental issues of today,” said pollster Lindsay Vermeyen, Senior Vice President at Benenson Strategy Group. “This means candidates who are willing to designate more national monuments, prioritize renewables and long-term sustainability, as well as protect our Western way of life.”

The Winning the West poll results come on the heels of a recent ad campaign from the Center for Western Priorities, urging President Joe Biden to designate new national monuments in order to protect American landscapes and inspire voters. The ad, “More Monuments,” reminds President Biden that outdoor voters place an emphasis on protecting public lands, making the designation of new national monuments important to the administration’s conservation record. The ad is part of a six-figure ad buy that is airing on CNN and MSNBC in the Denver, Grand Junction, Albuquerque, Tucson, and Reno markets, and on Hulu in Washington, D.C.

Benenson Strategy Group conducted 1,807 interviews with likely 2024 voters in Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada from July 12–24, 2023. Interviews were conducted online. The sample is weighted to ensure it is proportionally representative of voters in each state. The margin of error for the entire sample is ±2.3%.

The complete Winning the West poll results for each of the three states surveyed are available at To speak with pollster Lindsay Vermeyen or Center for Western Priorities Executive Director Jennifer Rokala, contact Aaron Weiss at