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Arctic Public Opinion Poll Reveals Alaskans’ Priorities

Informs work toward an Alaska Arctic policy and raises bar for education efforts

The Institute of the North has released the results of a poll on Arctic issues measuring Alaskan citizens’ knowledge of and attitudes toward a variety of topics.  

The poll (available at www.institutenorth.org/ArcticPoll) is the latest data on Alaskans’ opinions of the Arctic and, when combined with a prior poll conducted the Munk Gordon Arctic Security Program in Canada, is a vital resource for policy makers, academics and community leaders.  Among the key findings:

  • When Alaskans are asked ‘what issues are most important to the American Arctic, the respondents were most likely to choose either the environment (32.9%) or the economy (27.1%).
  • Alaskans place a priority on the need for infrastructure and disaster response, but worry that current investment and capacity are insufficient. Respondents believe the same to be true when it comes to search and rescue, polices to protect indigenous cultures, and environmental protection.   
  • A majority of respondents (56.8%) think the State of Alaska is best suited to address environmental issues in the Arctic, although it is worth noting that 17% believe that no group is capable of addressing environmental issues.
  • While most respondents (51%) have not heard of the Arctic Council, when provided with its mission statement (for the eight Arctic nations to work together on common issues…) 81.7% of respondents supported or strongly supported the Council.

Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell commended the study.  Although Alaskans are well-informed about the Arctic, says the Lieutenant Governor, “there is a great amount of work still to be done to educate the public here in the state, and in the rest of the nation.”

The Institute of the North launched the inquiry as a baseline assessment of knowledge and attitude about a range of issues in order to better understand what citizens prioritize when it comes to the Arctic. Nils Andreassen, Executive Director of the Institute of the North and member of the recently-formed Alaska Arctic Policy Commission, points to the results as “highlighting the urgency of our work in the Arctic, the amount to be done, as well as the significance of the balance that must be struck when wrestling with Alaskans’ values, interests, needs and challenges.”

Margaret Williams, Managing Director of World Wildlife Fund’s Arctic program, points out the value Alaskans place in protecting environment, as indicated in the poll.  “Alaskans fish, hunt, and depend on the bounty of our land and seas. It’s encouraging to see the appreciation of these unique values in the polling results.”

When asked about the apparent divide between Alaskans over whether the environment or the economy is more important, Rep. Bob Herron, co-chair of the state’s Arctic Policy Commission, is quick to respond, “These are not mutually exclusive goals.   Alaskans have always prioritized sustainable development that ensures a healthy environment, economic prosperity, jobs for our people and cultural integrity.”

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