A vast majority of Michigan residents support protections for streams and wetlands, regardless of their political affiliations, according to a new study from Michigan State University researchers.
Results from the “Healthy People – Healthy Planet,” or HP2, Poll, found that 78% of residents living in the Great Lakes region “support” or “strongly support” protections for streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act; protections that have been slated for removal under measures put in place during the Trump administration.
Although the support for these protections varies some by political affiliation, the data shows high support in all groups. Among self-identified Democrats and Independents, who consider themselves closer to the Democratic Party, 86% support or strongly support these protections. On the other side of the political spectrum, 71% of self-identified Republicans and Independents who consider themselves closer to the Republican Party, also support or strongly support protections for streams and wetlands in the Great Lakes watershed.
“The results from this new poll clearly show that our streams and wetlands are important to Great Lakes residents across all backgrounds,” said Dan Bergan, study lead and associate professor in MSU’s Department of Communication. “This is not surprising considering people’s love for the Great Lakes and is worth considering as policy decisions are made about the watershed.”
The study also showed a relationship between residents’ sense of ownership for the Great Lakes and their support for the protections. Support for water protections is higher among those who feel more connected to one of the Great Lakes. Among those who consider one of the Great Lakes their “own,” 82% support or strongly support streams and wetland protections, compared to only 67% support among those who are not closely connected to one of the Great Lakes.
Another factor that was shown to sway support for protections was whether participants were informed about expert or public opinion concerning these protections. Compared to a control condition that did not provide respondents with information, being informed of expert consensus for the protections increased reported support, as did information about resident support.
“In this case, it is evident that convincing people to support these protections might rely on promoting visibility of expert or public opinion,” said Maria Lapinski, director of the Health and Risk Communication Center, or HRCC, at MSU.
The HP2 is a public service of the HRCC at MSU, an interdisciplinary center with over 50 faculty affiliates. The HRCC supports and facilitates research on health, risk, environment and science communication and is home to the Health and Risk Communication MA program and the Iris Scholars Program which translates research findings into practice. For more information on the HRCC or the HP2 study, including an executive summary and data tables, visit http://hrcc.cas.msu.edu/.
The survey was led by Bergan and Lapinski as well as HRCC affiliate and professor Shawn Turner. It included a quota sample of residents from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It was paid for by the HRCC and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.