Americans in both major political parties want to increase or maintain current levels of investment in walking and biking paths and broadly support federal infrastructure expenditures.
Those are some of the highlights of a new national poll commissioned by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a nationwide network of public trails, and conducted by Lake Research Partners & Bellwether Research & Consulting.
The findings, made public last week, showed that opposing federal investment in biking and walking is not popular with supporters of either major political party, according to Rails-to-Trails. The group said it commissioned the survey to better understand the political motivation behind recent attacks on federal funding, noting that despite constituting only 1.5 percent of the federal surface transportation budget, biking and walking infrastructure has become a popular target for some federal lawmakers trying to reduce or eliminate support for funding.
“This proves that there is no real constituency for decreasing federal investment in biking and walking,” Kevin Mills, senior vice president of policy and trail development for Rails-to-Trails, said in a statement, adding the findings demonstrate that congressional opponents of funding are out of step with their own constituents.
“Ahead of an expected transportation bill reauthorization battle next year, this is an important message for those who would seek to attack active transportation: ‘Your constituents aren’t impressed. This will not win you votes.’”
While the poll found that support for biking and walking was strongest among Democrats, an overwhelming majority of Republicans also supported the federal government’s role in building infrastructure, the group said.
“When told that about 1.5 percent of federal transportation funds support walking and biking, 64 percent of Republicans said that figure should be maintained or increased, with only 30 percent saying it should be decreased,” Mills said.
Other results from the poll:
– nearly four times as many voters favored increasing or maintaining current levels of federal investment in walking and biking paths as decreasing them (74 percent – 19 percent).
– across the political spectrum, twice as many people indicated they would be less likely (43 percent) than more likely (21 percent) to vote for a candidate who wanted to fund only highways and roads and eliminate funding for walking and biking infrastructure.
– when asked how they would apportion $100 of transportation funding, respondents on average allocated $26.90 to improving walking and biking paths and sidewalks, 18 times the actual current allocation.
– more than forty percent of voters polled said they have too few paths in their communities.
The survey, conducted in September, polled 1000 people representing a proportion of Republicans and Democrats who matched the national voting population and are expected to vote in 2016 nationwide elections, the group said. The national data were weighted slightly by gender, age party identification, race, and region to reflect the attributes of the actual population. The margin of error for the total national sample was +/ -3.1%.
“It is clear that, across the political spectrum, American voters expect robust investment in walking and biking as part of the balanced transportation system they want,” Mills said.
December 16, 2014
By Tanya Mohn, photo courtesy of Jake Lynch/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy