Wild Olympics poll shows strong support for proposal

By Chris Tucker
Peninsula Daily News

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A Wild Olympics Campaign-commissioned poll of 500 possible voters in the 6th Congressional District said it found strong support for a proposal to designate about 130,000 acres of wilderness and protect 23 rivers and tributaries as “wild and scenic.”

Nearly 2 out of 3 likely voters — 64 percent — expressed approval for the Wild Olympics plan, according to poll results.

A plan originally was proposed by the Wild Olympics consortium of environmental groups.

Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, who represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, have now offered their own version.

‘Overwhelming support’

The poll was conducted June 7-10 by the Mellman Group, a Democratic polling firm, and by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm, for the Pew Environment Group at the request of the Wild Olympics Coalition.

“Our poll finds overwhelming support for the Wild Olympics proposal to protect rivers and streams on the Olympic Peninsula,” said Mark Mellman of the Mellman Group in a statement.

“Even after being told of restrictions on commercial activity and motorized vehicles in wilderness areas, support for the proposal was more than four times the mere 15 percent who opposed it,” Mellman said.

The poll did not convince one opponent of the wilderness plan.

Little faith in polls

“In general, I don’t put a lot of faith in polls,” said Carol Johnson, executive director of the North Olympic Timber Action Committee, which opposed the Wild Olympics plan.

She said she glanced at the poll results.

“They surveyed 500 voters. Depending on where that sampling came from, it could heavily skew how the numbers come out,” she said.

Johnson also was critical of the wording of the question asked by the poll.

“Do you support hiking in the Olympics? Well, who wouldn’t?” she said.

The question posed was: “As you may know, the Wild Olympics proposal would permanently protect rivers and streams on the Olympic Peninsula by designating some additional areas in the Olympic National Forest as wilderness areas and designate others on federal and state lands as wild and scenic rivers.

“Hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, horse-packing, and camping would be allowed in those areas designated as wilderness and as wild and scenic rivers,” it continued.

“But logging, mining, oil and gas drilling, new roads and dams, and the use of mechanized vehicles like dirt bikes and mountain bikes would be not be allowed in those areas,” the poll question said.

“Based on what you’ve heard, do you favor or oppose the Wild Olympics proposal?”

Percentages

The poll found that 49 percent of respondents not only supported the proposal, but supported it “strongly.”

The poll found 15 percent opposed the plan, and 20 percent were undecided.

The poll also broke down results by the political affiliation of those who responded.

The plan was supported by 82 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Democrats, by 54 percent who identified themselves as independents and by 48 percent who identified themselves as Republicans.

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Reporter Chris Tucker can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at chris.tucker@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 21. 2012 5:48PM
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