Hunters and Anglers Greener Than You Think

huntersI've written before in this space about 'right greens.' 'Right greens are people who believe the government ought to preserve traditional rights like gun ownership, private property, and use of public spaces.' In the United State these people are often defined as conservatives or libertarians, frequently 'sportsmen' who enjoy nature through hunting, fishing, camping, or ownership of wilderness tracts. I met many of those people doing grassroots organizing on the issue of mercury pollution. They don't often identify themselves as environmentalists, or liberals. These were people who didn't want to hurt businesses or give too much power to the government. They wanted to conserve their right to eat the fish they caught without getting mercury poisoning or causing birth defects in their children.

Right Greens show up pretty clearly in a new survey by American Viewpoint. The poll of hunters and anglers shows that while this group fits certain negative rural stereotypes, they also share crucial green beliefs. According to the poll, seventy four percent of hunters and anglers identify themselves as either republican (37%) or independent (37%).  Most (51%) consider themselves conservative. Most (53%) vote in every election.

This conservative, politically involved group is mainly made up of people who hunt and fish (53%), do not have a college degree (62% vocational schooling or less), and do not live in the northeast (33% Midwestern, 41% Southern.)

Hunters and anglers are overwhelmingly white (88%) and nearly half (47%) are evangelical Christians. As white, conservative, less educated, evangelicals this demographic has been targeted by the Republican party in the last decade, to the detriment of the environment. From George W. Bush's folksy accent, religiosity and emphasis on his adopted Texas home to Sarah Palin's mid-western intonation, moose hunting, and church attendance, Republican politicians seek to imitate the hunters and anglers they represent. Too many people try to paint this group as deeply opposed to coastal liberals, who are a diverse group, often consisting of professionals who've attended university. There is a lot more in common between what coastal, Americans and the average hunter or angler.

To begin with, hunters and anglers are a lot greener than Sarah Palin, or the Republican party.

The vast majority of this group (80%) think the United States should "set a goal to achieve 100% of its electricity from clean renewable sources of power within 10 years." These voters are far from '&feature=related">drill baby drill.' This poll is a dramatic endorsement of the green agenda from a major block of voters.

Hunters and anglers are not blinded by a dichotomy between protecting the environment and protecting the U.S. economy. Instead, eighty five percent of them think the U.S. can and should "improve the environment and strengthen the economy by investing in renewable energy technologies that create jobs while reducing global warming." The environment and the economy are not opposed, instead progress in the two depend upon each other. 

It's important to note that these polling questions don't just reflect the usual tendency of Americans to express support for the environment in general. Instead, these numbers reflect responses to specific questions about the trade-offs we must make to build a green future.

renewable energy pollFor example, people were asked to choose whether they thought developing renewable energy resources would benefit the U.S. economy more, or whether developing oil and gas energy resources would be more beneficial. Sarah Palin might be surprised to know that 55% favored renewable development over oil and gas, while only 34% believed increased oil and gas drilling would stimulate our economy more. This support for green energy options over old polluting methods is a sign of how green hunters and anglers are.

The politics of the environment should not be something that divides Americans into regions, or breaks us into groups depending on what we like to do. My greatest environmental teachers have been hunters and fishers, and religion (including Christian evangelicals) endorses, rather than denounces, environmental policies. Green issues should bring Americans together, from all parts of our country and culture. A great example is Richard Cizik, a crucial leader of both the evangelical and green movements. Cizik cites David Brooks, who wrote about "trying to step out of the logic of the culture war" to make progress on issues people agree on.

I don't need a survey to know hunters and anglers support that. 

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5 comments

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C Robb W. 444°

Excellent article.
I grew up in the deep south, surrounded by hunters, I didn't hunt. My family had a small shrimp boat and kept our freezer full of seafood, but I didn't connect with the local shrimping and fishing industry. We were college educated, liberal, green, and generally different. I tended toward self righteous positions largely due to that inherent difference between myself and my peers. One of those positions regarded hunting. As a youth I regarded hunting as cruel and pointless, I saw lots of illegal hunting and gunplay growing up and considered my self above all that. To me hunters were despoilers of the environment. I couldn't fathom that they could have the sort of connection with the wild I experienced.
Then I learned about Ducks Unlimited, an organization as dedicated to preserving wetlands, my playgrounds, as the sierra club was to establishing wilderness areas. Imagine my shock! Hunters, deeply committed to the environment. I have sinced met many hunters who express the same if not a deeper spiritual connection to the wild as myself. I began to see allies behind every bush.
Most of us want the same things, clean air and water, healthy food, a rich and biodiverse ecosystem. Our differences lie in how to achieve our goals. There is more commonality than difference. This point needs to be made over and over. United we stand.........

Written in October 2008

Robb,

Thanks so much for the feedback. I guess the challenge we share is learning to distinguish wanton illegal hunting from careful, sustainable hunting. Thanks also for saying "this point needs to be made over and over"-- sometimes I feel thats all I'm doing!

Written in October 2008

Sophie J. 220°

HI Eliav
In New Zealand I've also noticed the alliance of Fish and Game (Hunters and anglers) with environmentalists, especially around the preservation of many of our rivers and riparian verges. This is particularly prevalent in the South Island of NZ, where there is a deeper tradition of remote hunting and fishing and a greater reverence for the wilderness itself.
There's also an aspect of thrift that those older people who have lived through war, with less abundance than we have today (particularly those living on remote rural properties) can teach us.

We have a national election four days after the US and funnily enough, a similar argument to yours was made in a column by an ex (Conservative) Minister, Simon Upton.
see http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominionpost/4734539a26342.html

Best regards
Sophie Jerram

PS
I still wouldn't mind more assistance in explaining to my kids aged 4 and 6 why it's OK to kill a wild pig in the bush if it's not for eating....

Written in October 2008

Sophie,
Thanks for your comment. The intersection between reverence for the wilderness and thrift is a really interesting one, and I think there is much to learn there.

The article by Minister Upton tells a very compelling story about his farming father. Do his policies (or those of his party) encourage a support for the kind of lifestyle he idealizes? Do the policies of his party protect the land-use systems that protect small farms or indigenous use of the land? I don't know anything about NZ politics...

Good luck with your kids! The most important thing (I think) is to keep them outside.

Written in October 2008

Sophie J. 220°

Hi Eliav
What's interesting about the politics in New Zealand is that the political parties have meandered so far from where they started. In the 1970s, when I was growing up, the National party (for which Simon Upton was orginally elected - he's been more recently at the OECD in Paris working on Sustainable Development) was the farmers' party. The National party were conservative (in all senses of the word), patriarchal, and pro 'employer' vs employee. They also maintained really high subsidies for farm produce. The other major party, Labour, were traditionally pro labour rights, as you'd expect, higher on welfare, bigger on state ownership of assets etc etc.

But then came along 1984 when a Labour government were elected. They started the most radical reforms the country had seen - selling off energy companies, telephone and all public transport facilities -ostensibly to pay off debt that had been mounting under the National govt. The farmers had their subsidies cut, meaning that only the really prudent survived (making NZ meat, wool and milk some of the most efficiently produced in the world).

When we were told that deregulation and privatisation was occuring in other parts of the world, it turns out according to recent comments by Margaret Thatcher that NZ was in fact the guinea pig. Since then, the two leading parties have found it hard to distinguish themselves; the recent Labour government which has been in power since 1999 has bought back the trains and the airline and introduced longer annual leave and paid parental leave. The National alternative seems to struggle to know what they represent. Its option for Prime Minister is an ex financial trader who seems to be well liked despite not having much experience. He is far from the 'old money,' traditional values of previous leaders.
So back to your question, the answer is a glaring 'no.'
The added complication is that since the mid 90s we have a proportional representation system rather than the dual party system, meaning that the smaller parties have far more say.
I do know of a few old style farmers who will vote Green but they fear the radical aspects of the party... I think this alliance could be fostered further. Let's watch this space internationally, I bet it will become more recognised.

Sophie

Written in October 2008

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