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INSIGHT: Battleground Voters Oppose More Logging of Tongass National Forest

Aug. 24, 2020, 8:01 AM

New statewide polling in the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Wisconsin bears a significant warning for the Trump re-election campaign over the issue of expanded logging in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, where the U.S. Forest Service proposes removing protections for almost 10 million acres of pristine national forest lands, for the direct benefit of the Chinese government.

The Trafalgar Group, a conservative polling firm that polled for the 2016 Trump campaign, conducted a series of battleground state pollsin June to gauge the level of voter opposition to lifting the 2001 Roadless Rule, which protects the Tongass National Forest, and how it could impact the 2020 presidential campaign.

The pollster queried voters about their views on the Trump administration’s proposed elimination of these decades-old protections, and how this would benefit Chinese economic interests, as the overwhelming majority of raw log exports that are cut from the Tongass are purchased by China.

China Benefits at Expense of Americans

When Americans in key battleground states were informed that China is the direct beneficiary of current and proposed expansions of logging in the Tongass National Forest, which is subsidized by their tax dollars, to put it lightly, they were not pleased.

The Trafalgar Group surveyed a minimum of 1,000 (average margin of error of 2.95%) likely 2020 general election voters in each state. The initial question revealed general baseline, across the board opposition by a roughly 2-1 margin, to eliminating the Roadless Rule protections for the Tongass National Forest:

  • Michigan: 45.2% oppose to 28.2% support.
  • Wisconsin: 51.6% oppose to 24.8% support.
  • Florida: 49.6% oppose to 26.0% support.
  • Pennsylvania 50.8% oppose to 26.2% support.

When respondents were told the large beneficiary of the roll back of the Tongass Roadless Rule protection would be China, the opposition grew to roughly 6-1.

  • Michigan: 70.6% to 11.4%
  • Wisconsin: 67.5% to 13.7%
  • Florida: 69.3%to 10.8%
  • Pennsylvania: 66.8% to 12.3%

Relative to Trump’s base, of Floridians who self-identified as Republican voters, 64.5% were opposed to the elimination of the Roadless Rule in the Tongass to benefit China, as were 62.7% in Pennsylvania, 64.2% in Wisconsin, and 68% in Michigan. With their responses, conservatives in these states are exhibiting their conservation credentials on the Tongass roadless issue.

The vast majority of voters were so angered by the thought of the Chinese state prospering while Americans suffer, that if Trump were to move forward with the proposal, it could have pivotal impacts on his campaign. When asked if they would be more or less likely to support Trump if he moved forward with the proposal, those less likely to support President Trump’s re-election grew dramatically, even among his base of self-identified voters.

Within Michigan, 12.9% of would-be Trump voters indicated they would be “less likely” to support Trump if he moved forward with the proposal, and in Wisconsin 15.9% indicated the same, in Florida 13.6% of voters, and in Pennsylvania, the largest percentage of Trump’s base indicated they would be less likely to vote for him, with 25.3%.

Could Impact Election

In a definitive assessment of the data, chief pollster Robert Cahaly of the Trafalgar Group explicitly warns that the vast majority of self-identified Trump voters will move to be “less likely to support” his re-election if he supports this proposal.

The Trafalgar Group, one of the few polling firms which accurately predicted Trump’s win in the 2016 election, also predicts that the issue of logging in the Tongass could “actually move the President well out of competitive range in each state (MI 12.9%, WI 15.9%, FL 13.6%, PA 25.3%).”

With razor-thin margins in these battleground states, any erosion in Trump’s support could be a fatal blow to his re-election.

Now, with less than 75 days until election day, the Trump campaign needs to listen to the concerned voices of their base whose wavering support for Trump could be pushed further into the Biden camp if Trump moves forward with lifting protections in America’s largest and most important national forest.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.

Author Information

J.D. Hayworth represented Arizona in the U.S. House from 1995-2007. He was the first Arizonan to serve on the Ways and Means Committee, and also spent the majority of his six terms on the Resources Committee.

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