Latino Support Surges for the Environment

California lawmakers take notice: Latino voters want a strong economy AND a clean environment, two things they believe are not mutually exclusive.

A new poll released by the California League of Conservation Voters finds that an overwhelming 90 percent of Latino voters believe that the state can “protect the environment and create jobs at the same time.”  This number mirrors national trends among Latino voters, including a recent national poll by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the Sierra Club, which found that 90 percent of surveyed voters believe that protecting land and water resources is “critical to the economy.”

Here are three major takeaways:

  1.  Latinos are the fastest growing electoral body in the country, and in California they account for 38 percent of the state’s population and 25 percent of the electorate in 2010. There are over 2 million eligible but unregistered Latino voters in the state and almost 2.4 million legal permanent residents who are eligible to become citizens and vote.  With the most recent redistricting process in California, 19 out of 53 congressional districts now have a Latino majority, the largest number of such districts in the country.  In the state legislature, nearly 40 percent of both the Assembly and State Senate are Latino-majority districts.
  2. Latinos can see the direct impact of pollution in their daily lives: 85 percent of those polled have “serious concerns” about toxic pollution affecting the health and wellbeing of their families.  Their concerns are well-founded – California is home to the top 5 most polluted cities in the country according to the American Lung Association, and Latinos make up more than half of all residents in these polluted cities, with populations in the Central Valley reaching a whopping 60 percent.
  3. Latinos want clean energy, and they are willing to pay extra for it.  Latino voters show overwhelming support (83 percent) for the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), one of the main components of the state’s landmark legislation AB 32, which requires one third of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2020 – compare this to 51 percent of Latino voters in the state who oppose drilling off the coast, or a meager 44 percent who favor coal as an energy source.  Most surprisingly, support for the RPS remains strong even when voters are told their energy rates may increase.

On this last point, I’ve written before that the clean economy is an economic opportunity for U.S. Latinos, and the NCLR/Sierra poll confirms that Latinos would rather work in the clean energy sector, with 83 percent calling coal plants and oil refineries “a thing of the past.”  National polls also indicate that Latino voters largely reject the notion that clean energy and environmental protections are “job-killers” or bad for the economy.

While jobs and the economy are still the number one issue on Latino voter’s minds, it is clear that they believe economic growth at the expense of public health or environmental protection is a no-go for California.

 

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One Comment

  1. Benjamin Unger
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting post. Thank you. The growing environmental concerns of Latinos in California reminded me of Edward Glaeser's recent book, "Triumph of the City", which outlines how California's "green" policies actually hurt the environment. Glaeser is an urban economist at Harvard who describes how height limits, minimum yard size requirements and state based environmental impact studies hinder dense, green development in California and cause sprawl and encourage people to live in browner places. California living is greener per capita since little energy is needed for heating and cooling. Glaeser explains how CA's "green" policies that force people to live in other places which require more heating, cooling and driving cause net harm to the environment.

    Solutions? Loosening of restrictions on building height and minimum yard size as well as environmental impact studies that include not just the state or even country but environment of the entire planet. Less NIMBY'ism!