Thursday, August 20, 2015

Poll Finds Environment as Important as Immigration to Latino Voters

Dan Heyman, Public News Service

CHART: A new survey of Latino voters finds they are very focused on environmental issues, and are highly likely to support candidates more protective of the environment. Chart by Latino Decisions.
CHART: A new survey of Latino voters finds they are very focused on environmental issues, and are highly likely to support candidates more protective of the environment. Chart by Latino Decisions.
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Latino voters are as focused on protecting the environment as they are on immigration reform, according to a new poll.

The national survey done for Earthjustice and the advocacy group GreenLatinos found 4 out of 5 very concerned about clean air, clean water and climate change.

Adrian Pantoja, a senior analyst at the polling firm Latino Decisions, says nearly 8 out of 10 of those surveyed said they have personally seen the impacts of climate change.

And he says these attitudes are likely to show up on Election Day.

"Here you have over three quarters of Latinos saying yes, they have directly experienced the effects of climate change,” says Pantoja, who is also a professor of Political Studies and Chicano Studies at Pitzer College. “So this is not an abstract issue for Latinos."

The poll comes at time when regulations to cut carbon pollution are being scrutinized, with critics claiming the rules will raise the cost of electricity.

Pantoja says his firm’s survey found three quarters were willing to pay $5 to $10 more a month for clean power.

Pantoja adds most Latinos have had little contact with green groups and don't call themselves environmentalists. But he says they have a deep-rooted conservationist impulse – even Cuban-Americans, who tend to vote Republican.

Pantoja says politicians and the media often assume Latinos are primarily concerned with immigration and economic issues like jobs. He agrees that those are important.

"But notice where environmental issues are,” he states. “They're as important as immigration reform. The issues are equivalent."

Pantoja says Latino voters reject the claim that there's a trade off between the economy and the environment.

He says they don't think protecting the environment automatically means fewer jobs. And he says they're nearly 15 percent more likely than non-Hispanics to say humans are changing the climate.

"When we asked Latinos, 66 percent of them – a 14-point difference – say the causes of global warming are human activities," he points out.

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