North Carolina Sprawl



A 2024 scientific poll of 1,100+ North Carolina “likely voters” explored what they value and what they fear as the state has undergone rapid change, population growth, and the loss of 3,995 square miles of natural habitat and farmland. Full poll results.

Cropland loss a problem


According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the amount of cropland in North Carolina declined by nearly 1-point-7 million acres since 1982, a loss of about 25% of the state’s cropland. Is the ongoing loss of cropland in North Carolina a major problem, somewhat of a problem, not much of a problem, or not a problem at all?

40% 42% 12% 3% 3% Major problem Somewhat of a problem Not much of a problem No problem at all Not sure

Where people live makes a big difference in how important cropland is, despite all depending on it. Generally, voters need to think a problem is a major one and not just somewhat of a problem before they are likely to press policymakers for solutions. Only 33% of voters in major cities and 27% of those in suburbs said the loss of one-quarter of the state’s cropland is a major problem. But in the state’s towns, 52% of residents said the loss is a major problem, as did 57% of rural residents.

NC Loss Is A "Major" Problem? Major City 33% yes Suburbs 27% yes Small City 45% yes Town 52% yes Rural 57% yes

Building on cropland unethical


Which do you agree with more:  That it is unethical to pave over and build on good cropland or that the need for more housing is a legitimate reason to eliminate cropland?

65% 22% 13% It is unethical to pave over and build on good cropland The need for more housing is a legitimate reason to eliminate cropland Not sure

Many of the voters who said the state’s cropland loss is only “somewhat” of a problem, nonetheless, don’t think it is ethical to build on cropland to provide more housing. Majorities of all types of residents — from 54% of major city dwellers to 78% of rural residents — said it is unethical.

And an even larger majority (75% of all voters) said it is important to have enough farmland to help feed other nations as well as their own.

75% 19% 4% 1% 2% Very important Somewhat important Not very important Not at all important Not sure


How important is it for the United States to have enough farmland to feed its own population into the future, as well as help feed people in other countries?

Preserve U.S. nature for rest of world

52% 38% 9% U.S. responsible to rest of world to preserve its natural habitat Preserving America's natural habitat is NOT a matter of global concern Not sure


Does the United States have a responsibility to the rest of the world to preserve a certain amount of its natural habitat or is preserving the United States natural habitat not a matter of global concern?

The basic philosophy behind initiatives such as the 30-by-30 goal of saving 30% of the country’s land mass for nature is that it is good not only for Americans but for the environmental health of the entire world. Most North Carolina voters indicate agreement that protecting their state’s natural areas is a global responsibility.

Woodland loss "very significant" problem


The government reports that to make room in America for growing cities the last three decades, 19 million acres of surrounding woodlands have been eliminated. How significant a problem is this loss of natural wildlife habitat?

54% 35% 7% 1% 3% Very significant Somewhat significant Not very significant Not at all significant Not sure

Nature provides spiritual uplift

76% 14% 10% Yes No Not sure


Do you feel an emotional or spiritual uplift from time spent in natural areas like woodlands, wetlands, mountains, lakes, rivers, beaches, and the ocean?

Traffic "much worse"


Has the government been able to provide the roads and transportation systems to handle the extra population and vehicles in North Carolina fairly well, or has traffic become much worse?

32% 62% 6% New roads and transportation have handled the extra population fairly well Traffic has become much worse Not sure

No. 1 solution choice: Reduce immigration 

67% 21% 5% 7% Reduce new immigration to slow down North Carolina’s population growth Keep immigration and population growth at its current rate Increase immigration and population growth Not sure


Nearly all U.S. population growth is being driven by federal immigration policies. Should the federal government reduce new immigration to slow down North Carolina’s population growth, keep new immigration and population growth at the current rate, or increase annual immigration and population growth?

While North Carolina is known as a deeply and competitively divided state politically, the survey found wide agreement on reducing immigration as a way to slow down the state’s population growth and rural land loss. The solution was supported by large margins among every category of voters regardless of their political affiliation, race/ethnicity, age, gender, where they live, income, education, marital status, and whether they were born in the state or moved into it from elsewhere.

The top answer for nearly every question in the survey was the same for those who were born in North Carolina as those who had moved into it as adults, although the percentage of natives expressing a concern was almost always somewhat higher. A similar observation can be made about the age categories of young adults (18-39), middle-aged (40-64), and seniors (65+), with the seniors usually expressing greater environmental and agricultural concerns.  One exception was young adults expressing the greatest support for protecting U.S. natural habitats for the benefit of the rest of the world.