There are at least two misconceptions that have proved tough to shake when it comes to the politics of advancing climate solutions in the US: One is that Latinos don’t prioritize the environment or global warming. The other is that all—or at least most—Republicans are solidly united against climate action.
It’s time for a reality check.
In fact, relative to other American voters, Latinos are actually among the most concerned about the environment, and in particular about global warming.
And despite the fact that 56 percent of Congressional Republicans still deny climate change (and, make no mistake, they are not scientists, BTW), significant numbers of rank and file Republican voters acknowledge the problem and favor climate action.
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Latino voters want climate action—and take the issue personally.
The lingering notion that the environment is not a so-called “Latino issue” is at least partly a symptom of the (kind of right and partly wrong) thinking that “the environment is largely a concern of affluent, white liberals.” What’s right is that affluent, white liberals have historically been the most visible environmentalists. Being white and affluent also makes a person more likely to be in a position to devote time and resources to a cause and being liberal likely tips the scales toward environmental causes.
What’s dead wrong is that liberal whites have a monopoly on caring deeply about these issues.
The NYT, Stanford, Resources for the Future polling reinforced past findings that Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to view global warming as a problem that affects them personally. It also found that they are more likely to support policies, such as taxes and regulations on greenhouse gas pollution, aimed at curbing it. Here are some specifics:
- Among Hispanic respondents, 54 percent rated global warming as extremely or very important, compared with 37 percent of whites.
- Sixty-seven percent of Hispanics said they would be hurt personally to a significant degree if nothing was done to reduce global warming, compared with half of whites.
- And 63 percent of Hispanics said the federal government should act broadly to address global warming, compared with 49 percent of whites.
As Coral Davenport writes in the NYT:
The findings in the poll could have significant implications for the 2016 presidential campaign as both parties seek to win votes from Hispanics, particularly in states like Florida and Colorado that will be influential in determining the outcome of the election. The poll also shows the challenge for the potential Republican presidential candidates — including two Hispanics — many of whom question or deny the scientific basis for the finding that humans caused global warming.
Of course, larger shares of Hispanics than whites identify as Democrats, and Democrats are more likely than Republicans and independents to say that the government should fight climate change. In the poll, 48 percent of Hispanics identified as Democrats, 31 percent as independents and 15 percent as Republicans. Among whites, 23 percent identified as Democrats, 41 percent as independents and 27 percent as Republicans.
Lots of Republicans are reasonable about climate change.
So let’s look at survey findings about Republican voters.
By party, 88 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of independents and 71 percent of Republicans said that climate change was caused at least in part by human activities. And, An overwhelming majority of the American public, including half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming.
- Seventy-four percent of Americans said that the federal government should be doing a substantial amount to combat climate change, the support was greatest among Democrats and independents. Ninety-one percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents and 51 percent of Republicans said the government should be fighting climate change.
- Eighty-three percent of Americans, including 61 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of independents, say that if nothing is done to reduce emissions, global warming will be a very or somewhat serious problem in the future.
- Two-thirds of Americans said they were more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change. They were less likely to vote for candidates who questioned or denied the science that determined that humans caused global warming.
- Among Republicans, 48 percent say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports fighting climate change.
That last number is one that Jon A. Krosnick, a professor of political science at Stanford University and an author of the survey, called “the most powerful finding” in the poll.
But take that with a grain of salt. Attitudes expressed in a survey do not equate to votes. Forty-seven percent of Republicans still believe that policies designed to curb global warming would hurt the economy. That number may define the political landscape for Republicans more than any of these others.
Still, in the best case scenario, GOP candidates would feel some pressure to get themselves back in sync with their voters on this issue. And Independents and Latino voters might just play a more defining role after the primaries.