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Michael Brune

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Sierra y la Tierra

Posted: 08/01/2012 1:07 pm

You're probably already aware that Latinos are the fastest growing segment of American society. Latino influence on our economy, our culture, and our politics will only increase in the coming years.

But what about the environment? Where do Hispanics in the United States stand on issues like clean energy, protection for wilderness, and climate change?

New information shows Latino support for environmental issues is stronger than ever.

Together with the National Council of La Raza, the Sierra Club recently led a nationwide survey of Latino voters and their environmental concerns and priorities. This was a follow-up to a Sierra Club  2008 survey of Latino voters, which was the first of its kind. This project included focus groups with registered Latino voters in Houston and Los Angeles, followed by a bilingual phone poll of 1,131 registered Latino voters across the country.

Here are five key takeaways from the survey:

  1. Overall, Latinos are strongly pro-environment. In both the focus groups and phone poll, Latino voters consistently expressed a strong desire to protect the environment and move toward a clean energy future.
  2. Nearly all Latino voters (91 percent) view outdoor activities as important to their way of life and support environmental safeguards that protect their family, community, and culture. Substantial numbers take advantage of public outdoor spaces, and nearly seven in ten Latino voters favor designating more existing public lands as national monuments.
  3. Many Latinos have firsthand reasons to distrust polluters -- they report that they live or work near toxic sites. Many also have family members whose health was affected by environmental pollution. Nearly half of respondents (47 percent) reported that they or someone in their family has faced asthma, and 41 percent reported the same thing about cancer. Since 2008, their concern over the pollution of air and water has grown by 10 points.
  4. Latinos are as concerned about jobs and the economy as any other group, but they overwhelmingly believe that conservation and clean-energy solutions will function as job creators. A hefty 86 percent of Latino voters report that they would prefer the U.S. to invest in clean, renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels. Further, Latino voters almost unanimously said they would prefer to work in the clean energy industry over the fossil fuel industry, provided salary and benefits are equal.
  5. Global climate change? Nine in ten Latino voters believe that global climate change is already happening or will happen in the future. That may help explain why nearly six in ten Latino voters are willing to pay more each month on their electricity bill to have their home's electricity come from clean sources.

We learned a lot more, of course, and you can get the details here.

Of course, for anyone who's been paying attention, this survey confirms something that should have been obvious all along. After all, Latinos led the defense of California's climate legislation (Proposition 23), and Latino communities have been among those leading the fight against incinerators and toxic dumps for decades. For those who haven't been paying attention, though, seeing just how deep and broad the support for environmental issues runs among Latino voters ought to be a wake-up call.

 

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