As we kick off a midterm-election year, candidates around the country are trying to figure out how to attract coveted Latino voters. A new survey released today offers a crystal clear answer. The issue that matters most to these voters after immigration reform is climate change.
Nine in 10 Latinos want the nation to take action to protect future generations from the dangers of climate change, according to the survey done by Latino Decisions for NRDC and Voces Verdes. When it comes to government action specifically, eight in 10 want President Obama to reduce the carbon pollution that is driving climate change.
This is a landslide of support for climate action, and smart candidates will take note. Latinos represent the largest segment of new voters outside of young people. Twelve million Latinos voted in 2012 -- 10 percent of the electorate -- and that is expected to double by 2030.
Most voters in the electorate have already picked a side. There are very few opportunities for political parties to find new members. But a large portion of the Latino community is still up for grabs, and candidates are eager to recruit them.
Sure, conventional political wisdom tells us Cuban-Americans living in Florida are likely to identify with the GOP, and families newly settled from Mexico tend to vote Democratic. But more Latino voters are registering to vote every year, and they come from a broad array of backgrounds, community ties, and political views. And where climate is concerned, this poll found that a majority of Latino Republicans support fighting climate change and the president's climate action plan.
Every political consultant worth their smart phone is trying to guess how Latino voting trends will play out. Will Latinos create a solid voting bloc similar to African Americans and Native Americans who typically back Democrats? Or will Latinos behave like White voters and split and segment?
We don't know where the patterns will take us, and so there is a mad dash to court everyone at once. The new survey results confirm that candidates who champion climate action and environmental protection will definitely turn heads.
In some races, these climate-focused voters could help carry the elections. North Carolina, for instance, is home to one of the fastest growing Latino populations in the country. Senator Kay Hagen is running for reelection is very close race, but her track record of support for wind and solar power and her consistent backing of carbon reductions could appeal to the huge majority of Latino voters who care more about climate action than any other issue after immigration.
Latinos feel strongly that taking action against climate change is part of creating a brighter, more hopeful future for their children. It's part of their pursuit of the American dream. A candidate who grounds that dream in clean energy jobs, strong carbon limits, and healthier air will attract a majority of voters -- and not just Latinos.
Follow Heather Taylor-Miesle on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NRDC_AF