Las Vegas Sun

July 1, 2016

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Poll: Nevada voters support solar power, fear for the Colorado River

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

The Colorado River runs through the Grand Canyon at Grand Canyon West Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014.

Ninety-one percent of Nevada voters said low levels of water in the state was a problem, and 70 percent believed that the Colorado River was at risk, according to the 2016 Conservation in the West poll released today by Colorado College’s State of the Rockies program.

It’s the first time Nevada has been included in the survey, which has gauged voter attitudes on water and conservation issues in Western states since 2011. It found that Nevada voters were broadly supportive of more efficient use of water, the spread of solar power and federal conservation programs.

Water issues were among the most pressing concerns in Nevada. Some 86 percent of voters named the drought as a concern, while 67 percent named poorly planned growth and development and 58 percent named climate change.

By a 68 percent to 18 percent margin, Nevada voters preferred to address the state’s water shortages through more efficient use rather than by diverting water from less to more populated regions.

Despite a recent Public Utilities Commission ruling that has severely impacted the industry in Nevada, voters here were broadly in favor of solar power compared to conventional sources. A total of 75 percent of voters said they favored continued tax incentives for solar and wind energy.

Solar power was the most popular choice of voters, with 53 percent saying they would encourage its use, compared to 10 percent in favor of natural gas and 2 percent for coal. With the exception of Arizona, Nevada voters were the most supportive of solar power among the states surveyed.

In addition, Nevada voters were mostly in favor of conservation efforts. A slight majority of Nevada voters — 52 percent — said that they opposed turning over federal lands to the state, while 78 percent supported presidential authority to designate national monuments, like the recently protected Basin and Range National Monument. Fifty percent of Nevada voters said they opposed rancher Cliven Bundy, while 30 percent described themselves as supporters.

The poll, conducted in December, contacted 400 voters each in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, in addition to the Silver State. Voter attitudes were similar across the region to those found in Nevada. For statewide results, the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent, meaning that in 19 out of 20 times that the poll were to be conducted under identical circumstances, the returned values would be within 4.9 percentage points of those observed.

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