American goldfinch perches on marsh grass.
American goldfinch. Wildlife will benefit from land protection in Illinois © Steven Sutter

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TNC Poll Shows Majority of Illinoisans Support More Capital Dollars for Nature

Nearly 3 in 5 Illinois voters support $600M figure for land protection, two-thirds polled willing to pay up to $40 more per year.

Chicago, IL

A majority of Illinois voters believe the state should be spending more on protecting land, water, and wildlife according to a new poll.

Fully 57 percent agree that the state should spend more on these goals with one-quarter (26 percent) saying “much more should be spent”. This backing comes from voters across demographic and geographic lines and is driven by the value Illinoisans place on clean water, wildlife habitat, physical and mental health, and future generations.

The poll was released by The Nature Conservancy, which is seeking support for increasing state funding for land conservation. Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin & Associates and New Bridge Strategies conducted the bipartisan telephone poll of 800 voters from April 22-25.

“This poll demonstrates support for an investment in open space from every demographic of our diverse state, said Michelle Carr, Illinois State Director of The Nature Conservancy. “We urge the Illinois General Assembly to invest in land, water and wildlife protection in a capital bill to address the issues their constituents identified as high priority: improving water quality, conserving wetlands, and addressing climate change.”

A key finding from the report shows that nearly 3 in 5 Illinois voters support increasing state funding with a specific proposal to invest $600 million over five years in protecting open space, with one-quarter who “strongly-support” the idea.

Support crosses major demographic and geographic categories, including:

  • 56% of men and 55% of women,
  • 69% of voters under 50,
  • 76% of Democrats,
  • 50% of white voters, 68% of African-American voters, 86% of Latino voters, and
  • 71% in Chicago, and 61% in the Cook County suburbs.

Voters are willing to pay more out of their own pockets to support protection of open space. Two-thirds (66 pecent) say they are willing to pay up to $40 per year in additional taxes if the funding were dedicated to protecting land, water and wildlife in Illinois. At $10 per year, that figure is 76 percent. Willingness to pay $40 per year is especially broad in certain segments of the voter population, such as:

  • 63% of men and 69% of women,
  • 76% of voters under 50 and 58% of voters over 50,
  • 82% of Democrats and 59% of independents,
  • 64% of white voters, 69% of African-American voters, and 81% of Latino voters, and
  • 78% in Chicago, 72% in the Cook County suburbs, 67% in downstate south, 60% in collar counties, and 52% in downstate north.

Nearly three in five say they are more likely to back a state legislator who votes to increase state funding for land, water and wildlife, and one-quarter (24%) say they are "much more likely" to do so. Majorities hold this opinion in most regions of the state as do three-quarters (75 percent) of Democrats and a plurality of independents (48 percent).

Voters’ top priorities for this funding include protecting wetlands, which help prevent flooding (73 percent), curbing air pollution (75 percent), providing opportunities for children to get outdoors and enjoy nature (71 percent), and protecting natural areas (62%).

“I know constituents in my district strongly support open space based on my experience on the Lake County Board,” said Sen. Melinda Bush, whose 31st district covers much of Central and Northern Lake County. “This statewide poll demonstrates voters across Illinois support investing in natural areas and value the many benefits these treasured assets offer their communities.”  

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.