Working to keep the West special

Public Opinion in the West: Still a Toss-Up

What people believe about whether and how we are changing the climate will determine when and how quickly we stop changing it. As Abraham Lincoln said, "Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed."

In the Rocky Mountain West, public opinion about climate change is evenly split. An August 2008 poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research in six interior western states showed that westerners divide evenly about whether climate change is real or not. (We at RMCO found this discouraging, but it also renews our sense of the importance of the work we have yet to do!)

On the other hand, even if many are doubtful that climate change is real, most westerners understand that taking action to address it is good, not bad, for the economy.

Note the sharp difference in views depending on party affiliation (shown in aggregate numbers for all six states. (This is why RMCO works hard to maintain a bipartisan or nonpartisan orientation in all that we do!)

Mason-Dixon Poll, 6 Western States, August 2008

Is climate change a scientifically established reality, or still unproven and subject to debate?
AZ
CO
NV
NM
UT
WY
Dems
Repubs
Reality
54%
47%
48%
48%
45%
35%
74%
25%
Unproven
43%
47%
44%
44%
50%
53%
20%
70%
In the West, will the benefits of taking action on climate change be worth the costs, or not?
 
AZ
CO
NV
NM
UT
WY
Dems
Repubs
Worth the costs
52%
51%
57%
57%
45%
41%
72%
30%
Not worth costs
32%
35%
26%
30%
41%
41%
14%
54%
In the West, will addressing climate change create jobs through new energy and agricultural technologies, or lose jobs by increasing regulations and business costs?
 
AZ
CO
NV
NM
UT
WY
Dems
Repubs
Create jobs
61%
52%
56%
55%
45%
46%
68%
40%
Lose jobs
17%
26%
26%
31%
32%
24%
9%
38%

 

A more recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that in the Mountain West there was a 31% drop from April 2008 to October 2009 in the percentage of people saying there is solid evidence that the climate is warming. The decline was from 75% who thought so in 2008 to 44% who thought so in 2009. The subsample from the interior West in this poll was small, barely more than 100 people, so the margin of error is large. But, along with other evidence, this makes it clearer that the West remains a real toss-up when it comes to attitudes, and therefore actions, on climate change.

On the other hand, a new poll, done in 2017, while not offering a regional break-out of views, does show that a bare majority of Americans now says, in response to the most important question asked in polls on climate change, that humans are responsible for the climate changes that are underway. This is the understanding that must become more widespread if we are to have a strong public consensus for action to keep from continuing down the path of climate disruption.

Still, it well could be the West that holds the balance of political power in determing what the nation does. It is that motivates us to continue communicating to Westerners what the scientists, overwhelmingly and unequivocably, are telling us about the reality of a changing climate and what it may mean here.

<Previous