Background: In 2015, Wisconsin legislators considered a proposal to freeze spending for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, a popular land and water conservation program that had helped protect more than 500,000 acres. The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a global leader in land conservation efforts, sought to protect funding for the program and commissioned Public Opinion Strategies to conduct quantitative research to gauge public sentiment toward the Knowles-Nelson Fund.
Our Work: Our firm conducted a statewide survey of 600 registered voters in Wisconsin. To ensure an accurate demographic sample, the survey reached voters on both landlines and cell phones. Our research found that, across the political spectrum, Wisconsin voters overwhelmingly supported dedicating additional public funds to conservation projects, even when made aware of the tight state budget. Four out of five voters said they would tell their legislator to continue to invest in the Fund and, equally important, that they would think highly of a legislator who voted to fund the program. Only eight percent of voters supported freezing all funding. The poll was released to the Wisconsin press, and was cited frequently in media coverage as evidence that the government program enjoyed broad bipartisan support among Wisconsin voters.
Result: Our research armed TNC with critical proof that cutting the Fund would directly conflict with voter sentiment. TNC and others made the findings a central component of their broader advocacy and lobbying efforts. In a bipartisan vote, Wisconsin policy makers rejected the spending freeze and continued to fund the Knowles-Nelson Steward Fund. Andy Tuck of The Nature Conservancy stated, “This is a HUGE win — and an unlikely one considering the difficult political and economic environment. Everyone agrees that your poll had a massive impact and was one of the biggest factors in turning the tide.”