The poll was conducted by Lake Research Partners and Bellwether Research between July 25–28, 2011 and sampled the opinions of 1,315 registered voters in Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Virginia using professional interviewers. The margin of error for the full sample was +/- 2.8%.
The Appalachian Mountain Advocates (formerly the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment), Earthjustice and the Sierra Club released a poll that surveyed voters in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee to measure public opinions on the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR) and clean water protections.
Summary: The poll found that voters oppose mountaintop removal coal mining by wide margins in all four states. This opposition to mountaintop removal—and the decision makers who defend it—exists across party lines. (Read full press release.)
A majority of voters in WV, KY, VA, and TN reject mountaintop removal mining: The number of voters who oppose mountaintop removal dwarfs the number who support it: 57% oppose mountaintop removal, and with noticeable intensity (42% strongly oppose), compared to just 20% who support it. Voters who strongly support mountaintop removal mining in these states are a very small minority (at 10%).
In the poll, voters were provided with a brief description of the practice as follows:
"Coal companies in [STATE] mine coal from mountains through a process called mountaintop removal mining where the top of a mountain is removed to extract the coal and waste is disposed in nearby valleys and streams."
Voters across Appalachia want stronger clean water protections from mountaintop removal mining: In some of the strongest and most surprising data, the poll reveals intense and broad-based support in the heart of Appalachia for fully enforcing, and even more support for increasing, clean water protections to combat the negative impacts of mountaintop removal mining.
Christine Matthews, president of Bellwether Research & Consulting:
"Fully three-fourths (75%) of Republican voters, and 68% of Tea Party supporters, in this survey support increasing Clean Water Act protections from mountaintop removal coal mining. Even in these economically stressed coal country states, there is overwhelming support for increasing clean water safeguards—a far cry from disarming the EPA as some on the national stage have suggested."
Unpopularity of mountaintop removal mining is far-reaching and crosses party lines: Surprisingly, opposition to the practice crosses typical political boundaries, including 64% of Democrats, 60% of independents and 51% of Republicans.
Voters in all four states mean business: Those polled are likely to reward public officials who stand strong on clean water protection issues and punish those who act to weaken clean water protections on mountaintop removal mining.
Voters believe environmental protections are good for the economy: Appalachian voters reject the notion that environmental protections are bad for the economy: 60% say they are either good for the economy or they have no impact (40% to 20%, respectively), as compared with only 25% who think they are bad for the economy.