Presidential hopefuls looking to win the Latino vote know they need to take a thoughtful approach to immigration policy, but it turns out it’s just as important that they support efforts to protect the environment and combat climate change.
According to a new poll, 90 percent of Latinos are in favor of strengthening the Clean Water Act, 85 percent want reduced smog and air pollution and 78 percent want more clean energy. Meanwhile, some 80 percent of Latinos say it’s important for the President and Congress to address immigration reform.
Pollsters also found that Latinos are far ahead of other Americans in terms of awareness of the science of global warming, which is bad news for any candidate denying climate science while looking to win over Latino voters.
Two-thirds of Latinos, 66 percent, accept the fact that climate change is caused by human activities, whereas just 52 percent of the general population say they accept this most basic tenet of climate science, as past surveys have shown.
The poll was conducted by Latino Decisions for the environmental law group Earthjustice and Latino environmental organization GreenLatinos.
There are plenty of other findings that should give any climate denying, anti-environment presidential hopeful cause for concern.
Large majorities of Latinos who responded to the survey said they are confident that tougher environmental laws and increased efforts to tackle climate change will be good for the planet and for the economy.
For instance, some 60 percent of Latinos said that enacting stronger environmental laws would improve economic growth and create new jobs. About the same number of Latinos believe green energy and environmental reform will have similarly beneficial impacts.
What’s more, 72 percent of Latinos said they are “somewhat to much more likely” to support policies and candidates that prioritize protecting the environment.
“For Latinos, our strong positions on questions pertaining to the importance of stewardship of our natural environment and conservation of resources reflect long-held cultural tenets taught to us not as environmentalism, but based more on common sense, economic necessity, and good citizenry,” Mark Magaña, President and Founder of GreenLatinos, said in a statement.
Of course, in many cases, Latin Americans often have concern for the natural world thrust upon them by racist and discriminatory practices that lead to their communities being subjected to far more environmental degradation than communities predominantly populated by white Americans. That’s perhaps why 78% of Latinos say they’re already dealing with the impacts of climate change.
A California father, Rodrigo Romo, recently sued the state, for instance, alleging that new fracking regulations that went into effect earlier this year were discriminatory against Latinos because they would do nothing to change the fact that his daughters are far more likely to go to a school close to a fracked oil or gas well than a white student.
The facts certainly back up Romo’s claim: 92 percent of Californians who live within a mile of an active oil or gas well are people of color, according to the complaint filed by Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment on behalf of Romo. Meanwhile, children of color make up nearly 84 percent of the students attending schools within a mile of a well in California using fracking or another extreme extraction technique, and more than 60% of them are Latino.
The GreenLatinos/Earthjustice poll is just the latest to suggest that, whatever the reason, global warming and the environment have emerged as major issues for Latinos.
A poll released by the New York Times and Stanford earlier this year also found that Latinos were far more concerned about these issues than whites, with more than 60 percent saying the US government should “act broadly” to combat climate change.
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