Understanding Rural Attitudes Toward the Environment and Conservation in America
By: Robert Bonnie, Emily Pechar Diamond, and Elizabeth Rowe
Rural Americans matter—a lot—to the fate of U.S. environmental policy. Not only do farmers, ranchers, and forest owners manage huge portions of American lands and watersheds, but rural voters also have an outsized impact on national policy. While rural Americans express support for natural resource conservation, they and their elected officials often voice less support for existing federal environmental policies and laws. Congressional action on a variety of environmental issues has been impeded by opposition from rural stakeholders. Why do rural voters and their representatives often oppose environmental regulations? What accounts for this apparent rural/urban divide on attitudes toward environmental policy? Are there alternative policies, communications strategies, or, more broadly, ways to engage rural voters and constituencies that might bridge the urban/rural divide on the environment? This study seeks to answer these questions.
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