ELPC Action Fund commissioned nationally-recognized pollster J. Ann Selzer to poll 601 registered voters in southwest Wisconsin. 89% of respondents said safe clean drinking water is the most important issue to them – ahead of infrastructure, health care, funding for public education, and agricultural practices.
Southwest Wisconsin voters are initially divided on whether more regulation to protect drinking water supplies is needed. However, 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. The poll was conducted in November 2019 in five southwest Wisconsin counties: Crawford, Grant, Iowa, Lafayette and Richmond.
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 elections.
Candidates on both sides of the aisle, it’s time to take note. The people in SW Wisconsin care about safe, clean drinking water, they are open to strong regulation to protect drinking water supplies, and candidates who act will be supported at the ballot box.