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For Latino Voters, Climate Change Is Almost As Important An Issue As Immigration

ClimateProgress, Jan. 23, 2014

By KatieValentine
Latinos strongly support efforts to tackle climate change and protect the environment, a new poll has found.

The poll, which was completed for the NRDC [Natural Resources Defense Council] by polling firm Latino Decisions, surveyed 805 registered Latino voters and found that about 9 out of 10 respondents favored taking action on climate change, with 92 percent calling for more use of renewable energy and 87 percent agreeing with limits on power plant pollution. Eighty-eight percent of respondents said that it was “extremely to very important” for the government to tackle air pollution, and 75 percent said it was “extremely to very important” for the government to take action on climate change.

That’s compared to a 2013 poll also done by Latino Decisions that found 78 percent of Latinos thought it was “very to extremely important” for Congress to pass an immigration bill with a path to citizenship in 2013.

Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions, said on a press call Thursday that compared to Latino polling on health care, the economy, and education reform, support for climate and environment initiatives from the respondents was the highest he’d seen.

“We have not seen this degree of consistency and this degree of high support among Latino electorate,” except in polls on immigration reform, he said.

Barreto said it wasn’t just a particular group of Latinos who supported these initiatives either. Regardless of class, country of origin, generation in the U.S., and even political party, respondents cited strong support for action on climate change and environmental issues. Support was lower among Republican Latinos than Democrats, but was still strong: 68 percent of Republican Latinos said it was important for the government to tackle climate change, and 54 percent of Republicans supported presidential action to reduce carbon emissions.

The poll also looked at reasons why respondents felt the way they did about environmental issues. It found that a sense of duty to future generations — a desire to leave their children and grandchildren a healthy, habitable planet — and concerns over health issues that are associated with high pollution levels drove many Latinos to back climate and environmental initiatives.

“It really embodies and embraces the American dream to have something, and to leave something better for next generations,” Barreto said.

Latinos have good reason to care about the health effects of pollution, in particular — about half the nation’s Latino population lives in regions that often violate clean air rules, and Latinos are three times more likely to die from asthma than other racial or ethnic groups, according to the National Hispanic Medical Association. Poor Latinos are particularly at risk — according to a 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, nearly one in four low-income Hispanic or Puerto-Rican children in the U.S. has been diagnosed with asthma, compared to about one in 13 middle-class or wealthy white children.

Latinos are one of the fastest-growing minority groups in the U.S. and are becoming a key voting block, pursued by both Republicans and Democrats. But they aren’t the only minority group in the U.S. that polls strongly on environmental issues. A 2010 study from the Yale Project on Climate Change noted that “in many cases, minorities are equally as supportive, and often more supportive of national climate and energy policies, than white Americans.” The study found that 89 percent of blacks, in particular, supported regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, compared to 78 percent of whites.

© 2005-2014 Center for American Progress Action Fund

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