Public Attitudes on Great Lakes Restoration and Protection

Frequently Asked Questions on our 2016 poll

In February 2016, the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition commissioned a poll in the eight states bordering the Great Lakes: Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York (excluding the New York City metropolitan area), and Pennsylvania (Erie County, only). The goal was to gauge public attitudes on the federal effort to restore and protect the Great Lakes—the source of almost 20 percent of the world’s surface fresh water, and a resource that more than 30 million people in the United States depend on for drinking water.

 

The poll was conducted by Belden Russonello Strategists February 5-18, 2016 by telephone, using both landlines and cell phones. 1,535 adults make up the sample size with a margin of error of ±2.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Below, we answer a few questions about the poll.

Who paid for the poll?
How credible is this poll?
Who is the pollster?
Why did you conduct the poll?
What are the main conclusions from the poll?
Where can I read the full results of the poll?
Why did you conduct this poll now?
What do you intend to do with the poll?
How do Democrats and Republicans view Great Lakes restoration?
To what do you attribute the high level of support shown in this poll?
Do voters think that Great Lakes investments are a good use of government funds?

Who paid for the poll?

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition sponsored the poll. The Coalition consists of more than 130 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes.

 

How credible is this poll?

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is an advocacy organization with a mission to secure a sustainable Great Lakes restoration plan and the federal funding needed to implement it. We worked with a professional pollster to craft balanced questions about Great Lakes issues so that we would have the strongest data possible representing how citizens in the region feel. Wording of poll questions is very important and can change how respondents interpret questions. For this reason and to be completely transparent about the content of the poll, we are making all data, including the cross tabulations public. You can view the polling memo and cross tabulations here.

 

Who is the pollster?

Belden Russonello Strategists is based out of Washington, D.C. Since 1982, they have worked with non-profits, political campaigns, news media, and others with poll work and messaging. Belden Russonello Strategists pride themselves on asking tough questions, which means poll analysis will yield more accurate and actionable results.

 

Why did you conduct the poll?

We wanted to know what people think about the Great Lakes and federal efforts to restore them. The Great Lakes define the region’s cultural and economic identity. In the 60s and 70s the lakes were the posterchild for environmental degradation, but now are a symbol of on-going and successful recovery. Over the last several years, the federal government has made targeted investments to restore the Lakes, but there’s more work to do.  So we felt it was a good time to see what people think about this important effort.

 

What are the main conclusions from the poll?

People care about the Great Lakes and want to see the federal government continue to support Great Lakes restoration efforts. 86 percent of respondents want the federal government to continue spending $300 million per year on restoration projects to protect the lakes. In the last several years, funding Great Lakes restoration has been a strongly bipartisan issue, with members of both parties in congress supporting strong funding. Continuing this funding is a voting issue for people in the region, with 58 percent saying they would be less likely to vote for a member of congress who voted to cut funding, and 53 percent saying they would be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who didn’t support continued Great Lakes funding.

 

Where can I read the full results of the poll?

The results of the poll can be found here.

 

Why did you conduct this poll now?

We’re at an important time in the effort to restore and protect the Great Lakes. First, and most obviously, we’re about to choose the next president. Presidential leadership has been important in making Great Lakes restoration a national priority: Both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have embraced Great Lakes restoration. We want to make sure that the next president understands the importance of this issue. Second, Congress is still debating the level of support for this program. We’ve had tremendous bi-partisan support for federal restoration efforts, and we’d like that to continue. This poll is a good reminder of just how important the Great Lakes are to people across the political spectrum. And third, there is still a lot of work to do, and we want to gauge how the public views investments to date and the appetite for continued investment.

 

What do you intend to do with the poll?

We are going to share the poll with public officials in the U.S. Congress, as well as presidential candidates. We believe that the poll provides compelling, overwhelming evidence that citizens in the region want the federal government to make Great Lakes restoration a national priority. We’d like to see that translate into action by public officials. We’d like to see Congress continue funding the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $300 million a year, fully authorize the program by passing the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act, and increase investments in water infrastructure. We’d also like to see the 2016 presidential candidates support our Great Lakes platform.

 

How do Democrats and Republicans view Great Lakes restoration?

Great Lakes restoration may be one of the few issues that Democrats and Republicans agree on—and both agree passionately. When asked if the federal government should continue supporting Great Lakes restoration at $300 million annually, 80 percent of Republicans, 88 percent of independents, and 92 percent of Democrats are supportive of this investment.

 

To what do you attribute the high level of support shown in this poll?

Public attitudes toward the Great Lakes have always been strongly positive, but two events in recent years may have actually moved the needle even higher. In 2014, residents in Toledo, Ohio were unable to drink their tap water for three days due to a toxic algal bloom in Lake Erie that had surrounded the drinking water intake. Additionally, for almost two years, the residents of Flint, Mich., have been unable to drink their tap water due to high levels of lead.  Three-quarters of people thought that the Flint and Toledo drinking water crises were compelling reasons to support federal investments to restore the health of the Great Lakes.

 

Do voters think that Great Lakes investments are a good use of government funds?

Yes. They strongly support (86 percent) continuing to fund Great Lakes restoration at $300 million a year. When presented with arguments for supporting the restoration work, for example, the progress being made to clean up toxic sediment in the Ashtabula River in Ohio making the waterway safe for fishing and boating, 44 percent of respondents felt this was an excellent use of federal tax dollars and 37 percent felt it was a good use of this money. When presented with counter-arguments to Great Lakes restoration funding, the results were far more mixed.

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