Survey Finds Increased, Binational Public Support for Great Lakes Restoration

By Todd Westcott 11:50AM July 10, 2018



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Eighty eight percent of respondents believe protecting the Great Lakes is highly important and are willing to pay more to ensure their restoration, according to the second large survey conducted on public perception of the world’s largest freshwater system.

The International Joint Commission (IJC) sponsored the survey, which was completed by its Great Lakes Water Quality Board in January 2018 and is summarized in the poll report released today. The first survey was completed in late 2015. The 4,250 respondents to the 2018 poll live in the eight Great Lakes states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) and in the Canadian Province of Ontario, and also include members from the region’s First Nations, Tribes, and Metís.

“It is clear that the Great Lakes community cares deeply about the resource, is prepared to accept increased costs to protect it, and recognizes personal responsibility to be part of the solution,” said Great Lakes Water Quality Board US Co-Chair David Ullrich.

Key survey responses include:

  • Significantly, 88 percent feel it is essential to protect the Great Lakesfrom a variety of threats, including pollution and aquatic invasive species, up three per cent from the 2015 poll. While 39 per cent believe all sectors of society can play a role in these efforts, 23 per cent and 18 per cent list federal and state/provincial governments, respectively, as responsible for the lakes’ health.
  • More than half of respondents believe there are too few regulations to protect the lakes, compared with 46 per cent in the 2015 poll, and 55 per cent said they would be willing to have greater protection of the lakes through regulation even if it meant an increase in the cost of some consumer products. Fifty three per cent feel these additional protections would have either no impact (30 per cent) or a positive impact (23 per cent) on jobs and the economy, while 27 per cent felt there would be negative implications and 20 per cent were undecided.
  • A large majority, 80 per cent, feel it is important that an organization like the IJC exists to facilitate cooperation in Canada and the United States on issues impacting the Great Lakes, and to ensure that the goals and programs outlined in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement are accomplished. This majority increased from 74 per cent in the 2015 poll.

Two members of the IJC’s Great Lakes Water Quality Board and its Engagement Work Group— Mark  Mattson, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Kelsey Leonard of the Shinnecock Indian Nation— will host a webinar at 1:30 p.m. today to discuss the poll’s findings further. Register here to participate and contribute your thoughts and questions to the discussion.

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