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Poll shows Coloradans' increasing concerns over climate change, wildfire, water

12th annual Conservation in the West poll released Thursday
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Posted at 4:51 PM, Feb 17, 2022

DENVER – New bipartisan polling released Thursday shows most Coloradans have increasingly growing concerns about climate change, more intense wildfires, decreasing water levels and worsening air quality, as do people across the American West.

Colorado College released its 12th annual State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll, which surveyed 3,440 registered voters in Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming via phone and online questions over a 2 ½-week period in January. In Colorado, 430 people were interviewed. The margin of error for the full survey is ±2.4%, while the state-level data margin of error is ±4.8%.

Across the eight states, 75% of respondents said climate change is a serious problem. In Colorado, that number jumped to 82%, with 58% of respondents saying they believe it is either an “extremely” or “very” serious problem.

Coloradans were also the most likely (69%) to say they are concerned about extreme weather events being exacerbated by climate change among the states polled. Seventy-four percent of Coloradans said they are also worried about increasing extreme heat.

The poll also showed that people polled for the survey over the years increasingly believe climate change is a serious problem that requires either some or immediate action. Pollsters saw a 22-point increase in the poll of respondents who were likely to say it is a serious problem compared to the 2011 poll.

According to the poll, the changing climate is also causing Coloradans to change when and where they recreate in the outdoors. Fifty-eight percent said they have changed due to crowding and more people in the state, while 31% of Coloradans said they have made those changes due to increasing wildfires and/or less snow or water.

Colorado was also the state where the largest share of people polled said they were concerned about the seriousness of uncontrollable wildfires. Ninety-eight percent of Coloradans said wildfires that threaten homes and property is a serious problem here, with 76% of Coloradans polled saying they view it as an extremely or very serious problem. The polling was done between Jan. 5-23, in the days and weeks after the Marshall Fire destroyed nearly 1,110 homes and businesses in southeastern Boulder County.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a detailed climatological and meteorological breakdown this week of the conditions that caused the Marshall Fire to burn through more than 6,000 acres of mostly residential wildland urban interface land so quickly.

Eighty-eight percent of Coloradans polled said they are concerned about more frequent and severe wildfires, as officials now characterize the “fire season” as a year-round event in Colorado and across the West. Sixty-four percent of Coloradans said they were “very concerned” about more frequent and severe fires. That’s compared to 52% across the eight Western states that were polled.

And 87% of Coloradans polled said they are concerned about the seriousness of smoke from wildfires, including 61% who said it was an extremely or very serious problem. Across the West, 84% said they were concerned about wildfire smoke.

Seventy-seven percent of Coloradans polled think wildfires in the West are a bigger problem than they were 10 years ago. And as the West sees its worst drought conditions in at least 1,200 years, according to a new study, Coloradans are concerned about drought and water levels in the state and across the Colorado River Basin, according to the polling.

Ninety-three percent of Coloradans polled said they were concerned with low water levels – which was about in line with the rest of the Western states. And 89% said they were concerned about drought and reduced snowpack in Colorado, compared to 86% across the West. Coloradans and Utahns had the greatest concerns, according to the poll.

The poll also found that out of respondents in the Colorado River Compact States, 81% prefer to practice more conservation and recycling, compared to 14% who preferred diverting more water to communities where the most people live.

The survey also showed wide support in Colorado for creating new national parks, monuments and wildlife refuges (86% of Coloradans in favor) and improving funding to provide more equality for people in the outdoors (91%).

When it comes to fossil fuel emissions, the primary driver behind the warming climate, 68% of Coloradans polled would prefer to gradually transition to 100% renewable energy over the next 10-15 years.

“We are seeing a perfect storm of threats that are driving higher levels of concern than ever before for the state of our lands and water in Colorado,” said Katrina Miller-Stevens, Director of the State of the Rockies Project and an associate professor at Colorado College. “Not surprisingly, most Coloradans are aligning behind policies that would help mitigate threats by conserving and protecting more outdoor spaces.”

The poll was weighted to reflect the geographic distribution of voters across the West, with an oversampling of Black and Native voters. It was conducted by Lori Weigel of New Bridge Strategy, a Republican firm, and Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, a Democratic firm. It was funded by the California-based Hewlett Foundation.