The purpose of this paper is to examine how the public perceives several levels of government address- ing environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest. In 1987, a set of survey questions was designed to address the following: (1) how different levels of government address the environment, (2) public satis- faction with the government at fulfilling their environmental responsibilities, (3) the level of government that should be most responsible for protecting water quality, (4) the amount of money spent protecting the environment and (5) individual and public participation in environmental activities. These survey questions were inserted into a large mail-based survey that was sent to over 3,000 members of the public in 1987, 1992, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2012, 2017 and 2021. Public response rates exceeding 50% were obtained in each survey year. In 1987, 24.1% of the survey respondents felt that government and elected officials did not place enough emphasis on the environment. However, by 2021, this value more than doubled to 58.8%. In 2021, residents younger than 40 years old and respondents from Washington and Oregon were most likely to say that there was not enough governmental emphasis on the environment. By 2021, a majority of survey respondents felt that state, county, city and town governments were doing a good or a very good job of protecting water resources, while only 36% of residents felt that the federal government was doing a good or very good job protecting water. County and state governments were each viewed by over 35% of residents as should having the most responsibility for protecting water in their communities during the entire 34-year survey period. Conversely, never more than 12% of surveyed residents thought that the federal government should have a primary role. The percentages of the public saying that their state of residence spends less money on the environment than it should in 1987, 1998, 2007, 2017 and 2021 was 28.7%, 33.2%, 36.9%, 41.3% and 45.1%, respectively. The three important observations made about public participation in environmental activities were: (1) about half of the surveyed public never took part in an environmental activity, (2) depending on the survey year, between 20.1% and 30.3% participated more than once in an environmental activity and (3) no evidence in upward or downward participation trends were observed over this 34-year study.
public opinion, sustainable water resource management, voluntary actions to protect water, water quality, water quantity
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