Poll: After 2018’s smoke and dead orcas, voters want environmental action

By Manola Secaira, Crosscut, January 16, 2019

While Washington has a reputation as a greener-than-average state, voters have a history of giving less priority to the environment when it’s pitted against other issues like education and homelessness. From 2009 to 2018, no more than 7 percent of respondents in Elway polls chose “the environment” as a top priority .

But in a new Elway/Crosscut Poll released this month, the environment doubled its support to earn its highest marks since 2001, when interest was at 15 percent. Elway Research President Stuart Elway says it’s rare for environmental interest to break single digits.

“We tend to take environmental issues for granted here,” Elway says. In contrast to some other states, “the environment here is pretty good and we’re taking care of it; therefore, it’s not a top policy priority unless something spikes it, unless something happens.”

That “something” was especially visible in 2018: Days of smoke in western Washington drove the realities of wildfires home this past summer, and a dead orca calf broke hearts across the country. The Elway/Crosscut Poll shows that smoke made an impact: 73 percent of respondents hoped the Legislature would give “preventing and controlling wildfires” high priority.

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