August 3, 2023

Statewide Poll Identifies Utahns' Top Environmental Concerns

Mountain bikers on a fall trail in the Utah mountains
By Andrea DeHaan, CHaSS Communications Editor

Utah State University’s Community and Natural Resources Institute (CANRI) recently released the findings of its 2023 Utah People and the Environment Poll (UPEP), which surveyed residents across the state to determine attitudes and perceptions around a variety of environmental issues facing Utah today.

The representative survey results come at a critical moment for the state. “Given the importance of the environment to Utahns and the pressing issues facing the state today, we know that assessing Utahns' concerns will help policymakers and advocacy groups craft better and collaborative solutions and develop more effective interventions,” said Jessica Schad, director of CANRI and the administrator of this poll.

The greatest areas of concern for respondents are drought, the drying up of the Great Salt Lake, and poor air quality. Many were also concerned about population growth, changing access to public lands, and loss of open space due to residential development. Many respondents want to see state policymakers do more to address these issues.

Overall, support for stronger environmental policy exists in Utah. Close to 60 percent of respondents support strengthening environmental regulations in the U.S., and over 75 percent indicated that protecting the environment should be more important than slower economic growth and job loss.

When asked about the management of specific issues, over half of respondents thought the government, on both federal and state levels, was not managing water responsibly. The Great Salt Lake was of particular concern, with respondents indicating support for a variety of strategies to protect it, such as creating policies to reduce outdoor watering, limiting the growth of municipal and industrial water use, implementing incentives for farmers to decrease water use, and changing water rights.

Utahns also have strong concerns about access to Utah’s public lands, with the vast majority indicating that outdoor recreation options and/or access to wilderness and public lands are important to them. Over 90 percent support using state funds to manage recreation by maintaining existing resources, and over 85 percent support using state funds to educate people on responsible recreation. Significant support also exists for developing more greenways and trails within communities.

Air quality is another issue for Utahns, with close to 88 percent indicating they agree or strongly agree that air pollution is a serious problem that can cause harm and roughly 65 percent indicating they felt they would likely experience health concerns over their lifetime due to air pollution.

The survey respondents represent close to 450 households split rather evenly across gender, political affiliation, and household income. “We were very pleased we received such a positive response to the survey from residents across the state,” said Schad. “We wanted to make certain that the information we gathered accurately captures a diversity of Utahns so it can be useful to decision-makers.”

In addition to asking about issues relating to Utah’s land, water, and air, the survey, which was supported by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, also assessed attitudes toward energy, wildfire, cultural heritage, environment and equality, climate change vulnerabilities, and other areas.

To learn more about the survey results or read summaries of the research topics, visit CANRI’s website at or contact CANRI Director Schad at


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