A new poll released Tuesday suggests Republicans could have a tough time winning over a key voting bloc next year if they don’t start taking environmental issues seriously.
Nearly three-quarters of voting Latinos — one of the fastest-growing demographics in America — think it is “important” that the United States acts on climate change, according to the poll, released by Earthjustice and GreenLatinos. More Latinos think it is important to reduce smog and to increase water conservation than to fix immigration policies, the poll of registered Latino voters found. The poll also found that 90 percent of Latinos want to strengthen the Clean Water Act, and 85 percent want to reduce smog and air pollution.
“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.
American Latinos are three times more likely to die from asthma than other racial or ethnic groups, and about half the country’s Latino population lives in regions that frequently violate clean air rules, according to the National Hispanic Medical Association. This discrepancy is even more dramatic for low-income Latinos. Almost a quarter of low-income Hispanic and Puerto Rican children in the United States have been diagnosed with asthma, in comparison to one in 13 middle-class or wealthy white children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Latinos are very concerned about climate change” and, more specifically, air and water pollution, Gary Segura, co-founder of Latino Decisions, told ThinkProgress. “They see pollution as directly affecting their families.”
In addition, many American Latinos are one or two generations away from their country of origin, Segura said, which means many have strong ties to developing nations — which are also more at risk from the effects of climate change.
“They also see climate change affecting their countries of origin,” Segura said.
Most Latinos believe climate change is human-caused, the poll found. The findings are consistent with earlier polling. A 2014 poll by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that nine out of 10 Latinos in the United States — including 68 percent of Republican Latinos — want the country to take action against climate change.
This is bad news for prospective Republican candidates.
Most of the 16 Republican candidates don’t accept the scientific consensus on climate change — and those who do often say it either isn’t a problem or isn’t human-caused.
Policies that seek to address pollution and climate change, such as the Waters of the United States rule, the Clean Power Plan, and mercury regulations, have been rejected by many Republicans, who often argue that environmental regulations are job-killers.
This argument doesn’t hold water with Latinos. “Our polls show that Latinos don’t buy that,” Segura said. “Less than one in five believed in the jobs-environment trade-off.”
He said the results were particularly interesting considering that a large portion of the community is working class. And, in fact, the poll showed that economic recovery was the number one most important issue to the group. Only 18 percent of respondents said stronger environmental laws would reduce economic growth and cost jobs, while 59 percent said that stronger environmental laws would actually help the economy. (The remainder said didn’t know or thought they would have no affect.)
“That can’t help but help the Democrats,” Segura said.