Survey: Environment Bridges WA's "Great Divide" Between East, West
BELLEVUE, Wash. – Washington's 8th Congressional District spans a lot more ground than it did before, with a more diverse population. And a new poll of voters in the district indicates they have some common ideological ground as well. It says no matter which side of the Cascades they live on, these voters have a healthy respect for preserving public land.
The newly-redrawn 8th District now spans an area from just east of Seattle, across the mountains to Wenatchee and Ellensburg - typically very different turf, politically speaking. But on conservation topics, 84 percent of those polled said public lands are "good for the state," and 71 percent feel they can be protected without sacrificing good jobs.
Pollster Lori Weigel is a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, considered the largest Republican polling firm in the United States. However, she says politics didn't seem to figure into these results.
"They don't feel the economy and the environment ought to be at loggerheads - they feel like public lands play an important role in tourism and in their economy. So, it really makes this district united in this respect."
Weigel says the number of Washingtonians surveyed who said they personally use the public lands in their area for recreation was a full 20 points higher than in some national surveys her firm has done on similar issues.
Four out of five people in the poll said they're in favor of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses a percentage of fees from offshore oil and gas development to finance conservation and recreation projects. And Weigel reports similar numbers feel a "moral responsibility to care for the land," even despite the federal budget deficit.
"What we've seen in the state of Washington, and what we've seen nationally, is that they place it in sort of the same context as things like schools, and even health care. They simply say, 'That's something we'd like to keep. Out of all the hard decisions that are going to have to take place, that's something we want.'"
Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Wash., who represents the district, has been a supporter of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. He declined to comment specifically on the poll results, but said by email, "It is important that we preserve the natural beauty of our land for our kids and many generations to come."
The poll was conducted during the last week of July for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, which has posted the highlights on its website, at wildliferecreation.org.