Nine out of ten voters say protecting Maine’s envirnoment should be top priority

New poll results about the environment

By Ramona du Houx - April 6th, 2011 · 

A poll conducted two weeks ago by Portland-based Critical Insights shows that Maine voters overwhelming oppose specific environmental rollback proposals now before the Maine Legislature, including efforts to weaken shoreland zoning, the bottle bill, and Maine’s energy building code.  The survey finds that Maine voters place a high priority on protecting our land, water, and air; believe our existing environmental laws are working; and do not consider these laws as having a negative impact on Maine’s economy. 

The survey tested eight factors that might pose a “negative impact” to Maine’s economy; of the eight, “Maine’s environmental laws” were seen as having the least impact, behind the cost of health care, cost of energy, weak national economy, taxes, condition of Maine’s transportation systems, availability of trained workers, and Maine’s geographic location.  

“Although the Governor and some lawmakers have been beating up on the laws that provide clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment, this survey shows that Maine people do not share that agenda,” says NRCM Executive Director Lisa Pohlmann.  “To the contrary, they believe a clean environment is essential for our children, heritage, and the future of our economy.” 

The poll shows that 9-in-10 Maine voters believe that protection of the environment should be a priority for the Legislature, with 53% deeming it a “high priority.” Asked to choose which statement came closest to their view, 63% chose: “Environmental laws and regulations have worked. They protect our environment and public health. We can have a clean environment while also achieving a stronger economy,” as opposed to 32% that chose: “Environmental laws and regulations have gone too far. They are hurting Maine’s economy so we should loosen up.”  Five percent were undecided on this question.

The poll shows strong support – more than 80 percent “net approval” – for the Land for Maine’s Future program, increased public investments in energy efficiency, efforts to reduce Maine’s dependence on fossil fuels, and phasing out the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA).  Each of these four measures is now before the Legislature.  The survey also showed that 80% of Maine voters support Maine’s uniform building and energy codes, with support above 60% in every demographic subgroup:  male and female; Democrats, Independents, and Republicans; all age groups and income levels; and all parts of Maine. 

A full 7-in-10 respondents expressed opposition to the idea of repealing Maine’s bottle bill or weakening shoreland zoning.  Ninety percent of respondents indicated that it is important for Maine to identify the most dangerous chemicals used in consumer products, and to require manufacturers to replace them with safer and affordable alternatives.

Asked how concerned they would be if they learned that their elected representative voted to weaken Maine’s environmental laws, a full 50% of Maine voters indicated that they would be “very concerned,” compared with only 9% who would be “not at all concerned.”   

“The message from this poll is clear:  Mainers in every region of the state, young and old, men and women, of all income levels and political affiliations believe that protection of Maine’s clean air, clean water, and natural heritage is a high priority,” said Pohlmann.  “Mainers don’t want to wreck our environment based on a bogus view that increased pollution and more uncontrolled development will be good for our economy.”    

Critical Insights conducted the poll March 21-24, with a sample size of 402.  Results in the survey have an associated margin of error of ±4.1 percentage points at the 90% confidence level, or ±4.9 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
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Statement by Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine, April 5, 2011

The message from the poll that we are releasing today is absolutely clear:  Mainers in every region of the state, young and old, men and women, of all income levels and political affiliations believe that protection of Maine’s clean air, clean water, and natural heritage is a high priority.

The poll also demonstrates that Mainers decisively reject the notion that our environmental laws are causing a significant drag on our economy. They just don’t believe that’s true, and they don’t believe that wrecking our environment will be good for our economy.   

The Governor has claimed that environmental regulations are one of the leading causes of Maine’s economic condition. But Maine people don’t see it that way at all.

In fact, as Portland-based Critical Insights has demonstrated in this poll, Maine people believe that the costs of health care, the cost of energy, a weak national economy, taxes, the condition of Maine’s transportation systems, the availability of trained workers, and Maine’s geographic location all have a bigger negative impact on Maine’s economy than do our environmental laws.

And when you ask Maine people their opinion on some of the major environmental rollback proposals now before the Legislature, the message from this poll also is very clear:  Maine people don’t support rolling back our laws protecting our state’s air, land, and water.

They don’t support weakening shoreland zoning. They don’t support weakening the bottle bill.  And they don’t support weakening Maine’s energy and building codes.

But they do support – by levels of 80% or higher – investing in the Land for Maine’s Future program, phasing out the toxic chemical bisphenol-A (BPA), increasing investments in energy efficiency, and taking actions to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

None of this should come as a surprise.  This poll tells us that Maine voters have the same opinions and values today that they have had for decades.  What is surprising is that our Governor and some lawmakers have seemed to believe otherwise. 

This poll sends a strong message to lawmakers about the attitudes of Maine people when it comes to protecting the environment they love.  I hope lawmakers are listening.