According to a new public opinion poll commissioned by the National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA) and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), national parks are cherished by an overwhelming 95 percent of likely voters who want the federal government to ensure the parks are both protected and available for enjoyment.
The new poll finds that more than 80 percent of those likely to vote in 2012 have visited a national park at some point in their lives, and nearly nine in 10 say they are interested in visiting a park in the future.
“From the Everglades to Gettysburg and Yellowstone, our national parks are American icons and inspire visitors from across the world, supporting urban and rural economies nationwide,” said Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation
Association. “This poll is a clear indication that voters want to see them preserved and protected for the future.”
National parks are a top tourist draw but are a very small part of the federal budget — less than 1/13th of one percent. Yet they support $31 billion in private-sector spending and 258,000 jobs each year. Nearly nine in 10 voters see national parks as an important and appropriate federal responsibility. And even in these challenging fiscal times, very few voters from either side of the political aisle say the federal government should be cutting back on funding for national parks.
“The American people understand that national parks are gifts from the past to treasure today and bequeath to future generations of Americans,” said Derrick Crandall, counselor for the National Park Hospitality Association. “Our nation’s leaders — regardless of party — can’t allow differences on other issues to obscure the unifying force of our national parks.”
The poll of likely voters indicates they associate national parks with key priorities and American values. Nearly 90 percent of voters think candidates who prioritize national parks are seen as caring about the environment, protecting our heritage for the future, patriotic and a good steward of our nation’s resources. And as the National Park Service approaches its centennial in 2016, a majority of likely voters (77 percent) say it is important for the next president to ensure that parks are fully restored and ready to serve and be relevant to future generations in their second century.
National parks are highly valued by voters, who see them as home to some of the most majestic, beautiful, and awe-inspiring places in the world and also as great places where people can have fun, be physically active, and enjoy themselves. Yet few voters (6 percent) think national parks are in good shape today, while many more (80 percent) express concern that funding shortages are damaging national parks and marring visitors’ park experiences. Those polled said they support park fees: eight in 10 likely voters describe the $80 annual America the Beautiful pass as a good value and one in three describe it as a bargain.
The National Park Service could face cuts of as much as 10 percent that would reduce seasonal park rangers and potentially close visitor centers, campgrounds and even some entire national park sites.
The survey was conducted by Hart Research Associates and North Star Opinion Research from June 12-17, 2012, among a national sample of 1,004 registered voters. To view the poll, visit www.parkpartners.org and click the “What’s New” tab. The survey results are being shared with National Park Service leaders as well as candidates for office in November 2012.