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Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates Opinion Research & Public Policy Analysis Santa Monica - Oakland - Madison, WI - Mexico City American Voters and Conservation: Results of a National Voter Survey April 2004 220-1526 Open Space Ballot Measures 1998 - 2004

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Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates

Opinion Research & Public Policy Analysis

Santa Monica - Oakland - Madison, WI - Mexico City

American Voters and Conservation:

Results of a National Voter Survey

April 2004

220-1526


Open space ballot measures 1998 2004 l.jpg
Open Space Ballot Measures1998 - 2004

- 86% Success Rate- $30 Billion Created

Source: The Trust for Public Land


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Methodology

  • Telephone interviews with 1,500 voters in the continental United States likely to cast ballots in November 2004

  • Sample included 800 voters nationwide, an oversample of 500 voters in the western U.S. (outside California) and 200 Latino voters in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico

  • Margin of sampling error of +/- 3.5% for national sample (N=800) and +/- 4.4% for oversample in non-California west

  • Interviews conducted April 3-12, 2004

  • Bi-partisan polling team of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates (D) and Public Opinion Strategies (R)




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Voters think the country is off on the wrong track. Conservation

Q 3

Overall, would you say things in the country are moving in the right direction, or are they pretty seriously off on the wrong track?


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Voters nationally have positive Conservation

perceptions of TNC and TPL.

Q 4

(National Sample; Ranked by % Total Favorable)

*National Association of Home Builders

*Split Sample


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Perceptions of TNC and TPL have remained essentially unchanged since 1999.

Q 4

(National Sample)


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Relatively few voters have heard anything recently about TNC…

Q 5

Have you seen, heard, or read anything recently about the Nature Conservancy? (IF YES:) Have you seen, heard or read a great deal or just a little about the Nature Conservancy?

TOTALYES23%


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…and most who have heard something view TNC TNC…more favorably as a result.

Q 6

Overall, how did what you saw, heard or read affect your view of the Nature Conservancy?

(National Sample; Asked Only of Those Who Had Seen/Heard/Read About TNC Recently)

TOTAL MORE FAVORABLE54%

TOTAL LESS FAVORABLE12%


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Nationally, air pollution is the leading environmental concern.

Q 7

What would you say is the most important conservation or environmental problem currently facing your area?

(National/Western/Latino Samples; Open-End; Top 5 Responses in Each Sample)


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Nationally, voters see conservation issues as middle-tier concerns.

Q 8

I’m going to read you a list of issues, and I’d like you to tell me how serious a problem you think each one is in your area. Please tell me if you think it is an extremely serious problem, a very serious problem, a somewhat serious problem, or not a serious problem in your area.

(National Sample; Ranked by % Extremely/Very Serious)

A lack of affordable health insurance coverage

The economy and unemployment

Government waste and mismanagement

The amount you pay in taxes

Traffic congestion

The quality of public education

Loss of working farms and ranches

Pollution of rivers, lakes and streams

Poorly-planned growth and development

A lack of affordable housing

Air pollution and smog

Unplanned growth and development

Split Sample


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Continued concerns.

(National Sample; Ranked by % Extremely/Very Serious)

Q 8

Loss of habitat for fish and wildlife

Loss of natural areas

Loss of open space

Urban sprawl

The quality of drinking water

Loss of property rights

Fire management in forests and public lands

Management of public lands

Damage caused by oil and gas drilling in natural areas

Too much logging of forests

A lack of neighborhood parks in your area

Loss of scenic vistas

Lack of access to public lands

A lack of parks in your area

Split Sample


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Many voters prefer the term “natural areas” to “open space.”

SEATTLE FEMALE: To me “open space”…it could be a big parking lot, whereas “natural areas” to me means that there is plants and animals, the environment, not just an open area that you can look across.

SEATTLE MALE: A parking lot is an “urban open space” so it’s just too generic. [You should have] some other term in there to indicate that it’s a nice urban area.

ALBUQUERQUE FEMALE: I think “natural area” is where you can go and relax and nothing has been touched.


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Voters increasingly see their area as growing “too fast.”

Q 9

Generally speaking, do you feel your local community is growing and developing too fast, is growing and developing too slowly, or is your community growing and developing at about the right pace, or don’t you have an opinion on that?


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Concern about growth underlies support for land conservation.

SEATTLE MALE: If we didn’t try to conserve land, we would just continue to gobble it up … even the areas where they put the greenbelts are much more valuable if builders are able to fill them with houses, and the next thing you know we don’t have the parks and we don’t have the trails and the greenbelts.

SEATTLE MALE: There has been all of the rapid development … it’s just been a continuing glacier moving across the topography and instead of leaving gravel and ground up trees, it’s leaving houses and unused office parks and items of that nature that were left behind in the moraine of debris.

ALBUQUERQUE FEMALE: [Land conservation] is looking ahead to the future and not allowing every square inch of land that we have to be populated and built up.


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Voters are ambivalent about government’s performance on conservation issues.

Q 15/16/17

How good of a job do you feel the is doing at protecting water quality; natural areas; lakes, rivers, or beaches; neighborhood parks; and wildlife habitat: an excellent job, a good job, only a fair job, or a poor job, or don’t you have an opinion on this?


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Conclusions: General Conservation Attitudes conservation issues.

  • Voters view TNC and TPL just as favorably as they did five years ago – despite the noise within the Beltway.

  • Conservation issues generally remain middle-tier concerns for most voters – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.

  • Concern about conservation rests on concern about growth: voters see conserving land as the only real alternative to more strip malls, office buildings and parking lots.

  • Most voters are not anti-growth – but they do believe it has been “poorly-planned.” “Conservation” and “planning” should go hand-in-hand.

  • “Open space” does not conjure up images of land that voters want to protect but “natural areas” is much more vivid and positive.


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Conclusions: General Conservation Attitudes (Cont.) conservation issues.

  • “Working” or “family” must always precede “farms and ranches.” Active use is a positive and is NOT assumed. And, agricultural land is too dry and not evocative, while working landscapes means ZERO.

  • “Neighborhood parks” is THE phrase – NOT “urban open space” (respondents thought of abandoned lots or asphalt parking lots) nor just “parks.” “Neighborhood” implies public use and access (and by the way, “playgrounds” is assumed, so no need to say it twice).

  • “Trails” can’t be assumed as a phrase that envelops recreation. Adding “hiking, biking and walking” before it creates a significantly more positive feel.

  • “Green space” in the dry West can imply water-guzzling lawns and be a negative.


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Taxes and Conservation conservation issues.


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By a two-to-one margin, voters are willing to pay increased taxes for conservation.

Q 12

Suppose that these programs through which your state or local government would purchase land to protect water quality; natural areas; lakes, rivers, or beaches; neighborhood parks; and wildlife habitat required a small increase in taxes. In that case, would you support or oppose these programs?

TOTALSUPPORT65%

TOTALOPPOSE31%


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Latino voters are even more willing to increase taxes for conservation.

Q 12

Suppose that these programs through which your state or local government would purchase land to protect water quality; natural areas; lakes, rivers, or beaches; neighborhood parks; and wildlife habitat required a small increase in taxes. In that case, would you support or oppose these programs?


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Tax Support Demographics: PARTY IDENTIFICATION conservation.

Q 12

% of Sample

(24%)

(20%)

(31%)

(36%)

(29%)


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Tax Support Demographics: PARTY BY IDEOLOGY conservation.

Q 12

% of Sample

(22%)

(7%)

(13%)

(17%)


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Tax Support Demographics: ETHNICITY AND GENDER conservation.

Q 12

Ethnicity

Gender

% of Sample

(77%)

(11%)

(48%)

(52%)

(21%)


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Tax Support Demographics: conservation.EDUCATION

Q 12

% of Sample

(33%)

(26%)

(14%)

(59%)

(40%)

(27%)


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Tax Support Demographics: conservation.AGE

Q 12

% of Sample

(9%)

(15%)

(20%)

(21%)

(44%)

(52%)

(31%)


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Tax Support Demographics: TYPE OF AREA conservation.

Q 12

% of Sample

(20%)

(21%)

(17%)

(13%)

(27%)


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Tax Support Demographics: CENSUS REGION conservation.

Q 12

% of Sample

(21%)

(24%)

(34%)

(21%)


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Most voters are willing to pay up to $50 more in taxes for conservation.

Q 13

Would you be willing to pay ____ more in taxes to fund these types of programs to protect water quality; natural areas; lakes, rivers, or beaches; neighborhood parks; and wildlife habitat in your area?


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Accountability provisions are critical for voters to accept more taxes.

ALBUQUERQUE FEMALE: We pay a lot of taxes….It’s very difficult and it’s really hard. But if they were to…say that it was just for the specific thing, then I wouldn’t have a problem. But sometimes they say they are going to do one thing, and they do something completely different.

ALBUQUERQUE MALE: The problem that we have…is they raise the taxes and say we’re going to do more conservation, but what ends up happening is we get more cogs in the wheel to suck up those dollars. So for every $10 that gets taxed, $2 may get to the land.


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Recent Conservation Bond Campaigns with Significant TNC/TPL Involvement

In the past six years, voters nationwide have approved $24 billion in conservation finance ballot measures.


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CASE STUDY: Pima County Question 1 Involvement

  • Question 1: A $174.3 million conservation bond on the May 18th , 2004 special election ballot in Pima County, AZ (Tucson area)

  • The measure faced numerous challenges:

  • A difficult economic context, with loss of jobs and sizable state and county budget deficits;

  • Only a slight edge in Democratic registration among likely voters (46% to 43%);

  • A special election ballot, promising a low turnout with disproportionately conservative and older voters;

  • Funds remaining from a previous conservation bond approved by voters in 1997;

  • A total six bond measures calling for $732 million in funding on the ballot simultaneously; and

  • Chamber of Commerce opposition to Question 1 alone.


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CASE STUDY: Pima County Question 1 Involvement

  • TNC involvement in the campaign coalition was critical to securing the measure’s passage:

  • Working with the Friends of the Sonoran Desert, the Conservancy helped shape the ballot measure, which included $110 million for lands that are high priorities for the Conservancy;

  • Early opinion research showed support could be increased from a soft 56% to as much as 69% with an effective campaign;

  • TNC invested $200,000 – more than it has ever spent in any local Arizona campaign – in a strategic, disciplined, grassroots effort.

  • On May 18th, Question 1 passed with 65.7% of the vote.

  • The return on TNC’s investment in this campaign was $550 to $1. Every hard dollar the Conservancy contributed created $550 for protection of land the Conservancy considers important.


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Conclusions: Taxes and Conservation Involvement

  • Nationwide, nearly two-thirds of voters favor a small tax increase for conservation.

  • Though it may vary from place to place, $50 per year seems to be the magic number – asking for more is a tough sell.

  • Accountability, accountability, accountability – you can never have too many accountability provisions in a finance measure. Voters don’t trust government to spend their tax dollars, period. Anything that can be done – from audits to oversight committees to publication of spending plans – will help to reassure the cynics.

  • Latino voters lead the way in supporting conservation spending – NOW is the time to build coalitions with the Latino community.



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Voters clearly support conservation easements in principle…

Q 18

Some state and local government agencies have started pursuing this strategy for preserving natural areas, instead of purchasing land outright. Instead, the agencies negotiate voluntary agreements with willing landowners who, in exchange for a payment or a tax credit, agree NOT to develop their land. The state or local government benefits because it can prevent land from being developed at a lower cost than if it purchased the land outright; the landowners benefit because they can continue to use the land as they always have -- provided that they do not develop it.

TOTALSUPPORT70%

TOTALOPPOSE20%


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…but do not like the term “conservation easements.” principle…

Q 20

From the following list of proposed names, please rate each name on an imaginary thermometer from 0 degrees to 100 degrees, where “0” means you have a very cold/unfavorable reaction and 100 means you have a very warm/favorable reaction, with fifty being neither cold NOR warm.

Split Sample


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Voters find the term “conservation easement” unclear or negative.

DENVER FEMALE: Easements are a lot of different kinds of things like if you have a piece of land here and you have to cross over this land to get to this one, you have an easement so conservation easement…

DENVER FEMALE: Are the conservation easements when you would own the water rights or the air rights?

ALBUQUERQUE FEMALE:(AFTER concept of easement is explained) Would we be able to decide what happens to that land, or are they going to put something up there? What are they going to be doing with that land? Is it going to be a park? Is it going to be a gas station?

ALBUQUERQUE MALE: I don’t know what a conservation easement is, but when I think about easements on my home, I don’t think of that as being a positive thing because that means…they can come in and do anything they want on that easement….I don’t like the connotation of it. I don’t know what it is.


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Preservation Agreement Demographics: TYPE OF AREA negative.

Q 18

% of Sample

(13%)

(27%)

(21%)

(20%)

(18%)


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Voters react positively to most aspects of easements. negative.

Q 19

I’m going to read you some phrases that describe in more detail this strategy for preserving natural areas. Please tell me whether each description makes you MORE or LESS likely to support your state or local government using this strategy for preserving natural areas.

*Keeps land in private hands and preserves traditional land uses, such as family farming and ranching

*Makes it possible to prevent natural areas, farms and ranches from being developed without forcing anyone to sell their land, and while still allowing the landowners to continue farming and ranching as they always have

*Generates revenue for the local community, because landowners continue to pay property taxes

*Split Sample


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Continued negative.

Q 19

Limits certain types of uses or prevents development from taking place on the land to protect its value as a natural area, open space, farm or ranchland, now and in the future

Is a voluntary agreement between a private landowner and state or local government

*Allows non-profits and government to protect more land from development, because it is less expensive than buying the land outright

*Is attached to the land itself, so it permanently restricts all future owners from developing the land as well

*Split Sample


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Continued negative.

Q 19

*Limits uses of the land even after the original landowner passes away

*Prevents land from being used in the most profitable way, which limits tax revenue

*Provides little value to taxpayers, since private land often does not allow public access to it

*Can be abused by developers, and can end up creating unfair tax breaks for rich landowners

*Split Sample


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Conclusions: Conservation Easements negative.

  • DON’T call it an easement. Land protection agreements or conservation agreements are MUCH better accepted.

  • DO stress that it is VOLUNTARY – the term “agreement” helps to imply its voluntary nature.

  • DON’T talk about “limiting uses” on the land. Instead, talk about preventing development from taking place and keeping family farmers working their land (or the like).

  • DO introduce the idea that easements can be a “good deal” or a way to protect more land cost effectively, if that is the case in your particular effort.

  • DO talk about preserving the land for future generations.

  • DO keep in mind that voters are MUCH more wary of government being involved with easements. Cronyism and potential abuse concerns are all directed at government – NOT non-profit organizations.



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Preserving water quality continues to offer the best reason for conserving land.

Q 21

How important are each of the following as reasons for your state or local community to buy land and protect it from development? Please tell me if you think that particular reason is very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not important at all. If you’re not sure about a particular reason, please say so and we’ll go on.

(Ranked by % Very Important)

To protect our drinking water quality

To improve the water quality in our lakes, streams, and rivers

To protect lakes, rivers and streams

To protect our quality of life

To protect watersheds

To provide opportunities for kids to learn about the environment

To protect working farms and ranches

To protect natural areas


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Continued for conserving land.

Q 21

To create parks and other places where children can play safely

To protect beaches, bays and the coast

To provide wildlife habitat

To protect historic and cultural sites

To preserve the special land and places that make each of our communities unique

To promote healthier lifestyles by providing safe, attractive places to exercise

To improve public access to parks and natural lands

To create neighborhood parks

To provide community trails and greenways

To reduce sprawl


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Voters clearly understand the link between land conservation and water quality.

SEATTLE FEMALE: If you are talking storm run off or water that you use in your yard…the land filters water before it goes back into the system. So if you haven’t left yourself open space…it is just going to mean that you are going to have more sophisticated clean-up filtering equipment on the other end taking care of it.

SEATTLE MALE: If you use up all the land, you’re going to have to do something with all of that water, either divert it, dam it, do something with it because it’s going to affect everything that lives in [the water] or on it.

ALBUQUERQUE FEMALE: Whatever is put on the land ends up polluting the water.


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Since 1999, voters place increased importance on many reasons for conservation.

Q 21

(Ranked by % Very Important, 2004 )

To improve the water quality in our lakes, streams, and rivers

To create parks and other places where children can play safely

To protect historic and cultural sites

To preserve the special land and places that make each of our communities unique

To improve public access to parks and natural lands

To provide community trails and greenways

To reduce sprawl


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The survey results show many strong arguments in favor of taxes for conservation.

Q 22

*Split Sample


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Overall, voters choose clean air and water as the taxes for conservation.best reason to support land conservation.

Q A

And which of the following do you think offers the best reason to support programs in which state or local governments would purchase land to protect natural areas, water quality, and wildlife habitat, funded by a small increase in taxes:

To preserve clean air and clean water

To preserve natural areas for future generations

To plan for and reduce the impact of sprawl and development

To protect working farms and ranches

To preserve opportunities for recreation like hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and observing nature


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Scientists, farmers and ranchers are among the most credible messengers.

Q 24

I'm going to read some people and organizations that might speak out about issues relating to the protection of land, air, and water in your area. Please tell me whether or not you would consider that person or organization to be a believable source of information about those issues. If you have never heard of the person or organization, or have no opinion about it, please tell me that too.

(Ranked by % Very Believable)

*Split Sample


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Conclusions: Talking to Voters messengers.

  • Water, water everywhere: protecting water quality still offers the best reason for conserving land. And remember that many voters are NOT unhappy with their current water quality – they just want to keep it that way.

  • Voters get it: conserving land leads to cleaner air and water, which leads to better public health. Voters understand that connection, and it is one of the most powerful arguments for conservation.

  • Other top arguments stress the urgency of protecting natural areas before they are lost and the need to plan for and reduce the impact of growth.

  • Scientists, biologists, farmers and ranchers are the most credible spokespeople for conservation.


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Bad messengers. Words to Avoid

Environment

Ecosystems

Biodiversity/

Endangered Species

Watershed

Riparian

Environmentalism

Good Words to Use

Land, air and water

Natural areas

Fish and wildlife

Water/Land around water

Lakes, rivers and streams

Conservationism

The “New” Language of Conservation


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Bad messengers. Words to Avoid

Trails

Parks

Sprawl

Conservation Easement

Regulations

Agricultural land

Good Words to Use

Hiking, biking, walking trails

Neighborhood parks

Poorly planned growth

Land preservation agreement

Safeguards/standards/protections

Farmland

The “New” Language of Conservation


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Best Messengers messengers.

(National Wildlife Survey, 2005)

Please indicate how believable you consider each of the following people and organizations to be as sources of information on issues related to wildlife: very believable, somewhat believable, not too believable, or not at all believable

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%


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Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates messengers.

Opinion Research & Public Policy Analysis

Santa Monica - Oakland - Madison, WI - Mexico City

American Voters and Conservation:

Results of a National Voter Survey

April 2004

220-1526