Virginians strongly support the multi-state effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and oppose efforts to roll back federal clean air and water laws, according to a new survey.
The poll of registered voters also found that people see the state’s environment getting better, overall. They graded its overall environmental health at a “B,” the highest mark given since the question was first asked in a 1997 survey, when the state’s environment rated a “C.”
Joseph Maroon, executive director of the Virginia Environmental Endowment, which funded the survey, said the results show that “Virginia voters value the Commonwealth’s natural environment, they recognize the progress of the past 20 years and they see that the job isn’t finished.”
Voters surveyed also said the environment would be an important issue when they go to the polls in November to elect a new governor. Overall, 56 percent said environmental issues were “very important” to them, and they want the next governor to place a priority on those issues.
“Lawmakers and candidates at every level should take note,” said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, which conducted the survey. “By overwhelming numbers, voters say they want continuing action on environmental progress.”
When asked which environmental issues were important to them, safety of tap water topped the list, with 88 percent saying it was a “very important” issue for Virginia. Eighty-five percent stressed protecting drinking water supplies; 81 percent cited pollution to local rivers, streams and lakes; 75 percent said the health of the Chesapeake Bay; and 62 percent said dealing with coal ash from power plants was very important.
Meanwhile, less than half of voters, 47 percent, called fracking a very important issue; 45 percent said urban sprawl; 43 percent cited sea level rise, and 42 percent for offshore drilling. The pollsters said lower levels of concern about those issues appeared to be a reflection, at least in part, that they were seen as regional rather than statewide issues.
When it comes to cleaning up the Bay, 43 percent said the state was doing too little, while 45 percent said it was making enough progress, and 11 percent said it was doing too much.
Overall, 94 percent said they support continuing to carry out the Bay cleanup plan, even if federal efforts back off.
While the Trump administration has proposed rolling back environmental initiatives, 51 percent of Virginians say the federal government should play a “major” role in protecting the state’s environment and natural resources, while 36 percent said it should only have a minor role.
The survey interviewed 826 registered voters on landlines and cell phones from Jan. 29 to Feb. 12 and had a margin of error of 3.7 percent.