Latinos care about immigration politics, of course. As an aspirational community, they also care about jobs and schools. But what may come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with the attitudes of American Latinos is how deeply concerned they are about protecting the environment.
In conjunction with the National Resources Defense Council, Latino Decisions came to Washington this week to discuss a new poll revealing how concerned Latinos are about environmental protection and climate change. At a Monday, March 24 press event held in the Cannon Office Building on Capitol Hill, NRDC senior attorney and Latino Outreach Director Adrianna Quintero and Latino Decisions co-founder Matt Barreto discussed the LD poll results. Both trumpeted the fact that Latino Americans exhibit very strong support for environmental protection and, more specifically, that Latinos want government to be active in addressing environmental issues.
The survey of 800 Latino registered voters reveals that more than half of Latinos want government are concerned about the challenges posed by climate change, and fully three-quarters said they believe it is “very” or “extremely” important for the government to address climate change. “These are remarkably high levels of support,” said Barreto. His comments echoed sentiments Quintero recently expressed on her NRDC blog. “We’ve seen it before and this poll again dramatically emphasizes the point,” writes Quintero. “In fact, 9 out 10 Latinos want action against climate change. That’s a compelling margin of support.”
Support for climate change action is not only strong but relatively uniform: among young and old, among foreign or U.S-born, across ethnicities or countries of origin, among those with high school or college degrees. Indeed, as Barreto explained only immigration reform ranks with climate change in its level of support among Latino for government action, eclipsing issues including tax policy, gun buyer background checks and abortion policy.
In term of specific preferences, more than three-quarters (78 percent) of Latinos would view members of Congress either “somewhat” or “much more” favorably were they to support a carbon tax. By similar margins, Latino registered voters favor the president taking action to curb carbon production.
Perhaps most interesting—but hardly surprising—is the key motivation behind Latino attitudes: el futuro. Latino support is rooted in their desire to protect of natural resources and environmental quality for their children and future generations.
Thomas Schaller is political director at Latino Decisions, a political columnist for the Baltimore Sun, and professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.