New Poll Shows SW Wisconsin Voters Prioritize Safe Clean Drinking Water as Top Issue of Concern & Favor Specific Regulations to Improve Water Quality

Contact: Judith Nemes, jnemes@elpc.org, (312)795-3706

New Poll Shows SW Wisconsin Voters Prioritize Safe Clean Drinking Water as Top Issue of Concern & Favor Specific Regulations to Improve Water Quality

 Majority said they’d favor candidate supporting more regulation to protect safe clean drinking water

CHICAGO – Nationally-recognized pollster J. Ann Selzer‘s new poll of 601 registered voters in southwest Wisconsin for the Environmental Law & Policy Center Action Fund (ELPC Action Fund) found 89% of respondents said safe clean drinking water is the most important issue – ahead of infrastructure, health care, funding for public education and agricultural practices. While Southwest Wisconsin voters are initially divided on whether more regulation to protect drinking water supplies is needed, when presented facts and arguments about specific proposals that would address water quality, a majority support policy actions, including a freeze on new or expanded construction of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Additionally, a majority said they would favor a candidate supporting more regulation on drinking water over a candidate supporting the status quo when it comes time to vote.

“Candidates should recognize that strong policies to protect safe, clean drinking water are winners with the voters in Wisconsin. The poll results show that southwest Wisconsin residents are concerned about safe clean drinking water and would be more likely to vote for a candidate supporting stronger regulations that protect the water supply from pollutants,” said Howard Learner, ELPC Action Fund’s executive director. “The recent well water testing shows that our drinking water needs better protections. Voters in southwest Wisconsin care about this issue and will support candidates who support policy actions and solutions.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Nearly nine in ten (89%) voters in largely rural counties in southwest Wisconsin say drinking water quality is very (82%) or fairly (7%) important to them.
  • An underlying reason for the importance of safe clean water may stem from voters’ responses that good quality of life for them is connected to multiple elements including outdoor recreation (87%), scenic landscapes and quiet places.
  • Three specific legislative proposals were favored by the majority. They include a requirement for best management practices to reduce fertilizer and manure runoff from crop farms and CAFOs (72% support), allowing counties to impose stricter local standards to protect drinking water compared to state law (75% support), and requiring greater disclosure and regulation of how CAFOs spread manure on fields where it can run off or seep into nearby waterways (72% support).
  • There is high awareness among voters in southwest Wisconsin about the contamination causes of drinking water, including over-application of commercial fertilizer on fields that seeps into the groundwater (85% awareness), CAFOs spreading more manure on fields than can be naturally absorbed (74% awareness), and the fractured bedrock and sandy soil allows contaminants to get into the groundwater (67% awareness).
  • A pro-regulation candidate is preferred over one favoring the status quo. 52% say they would be inclined support a candidate who supports more regulation to a candidate who does not. Two in three see water quality as a major or minor issue for the next general election.

The poll was conducted in November 2019 in five southwest Wisconsin counties: Crawford, Grant, Iowa, Lafayette and Richmond.

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