California’s Latino Voters and the Environment

Written by: Alvaro Sanchez Sanchez, Senior Associate

Disponible en español. Available in Spanish.

Ninety percent of Latino voters overwhelmingly agree that we can protect the environment and create jobs at the same time.  That was one of the key findings from a poll of 500 Latino California voters that was shared at last night’s California League of Conservation Voters Community Forum,”California Latinos and the Environment.”  The survey, by Tulchin Research showed that California Latinos strongly support cleaner and safer sources of energy, specifically: energy conservation, renewable energy, energy efficiency and natural gas.

The other panelists and I were not surprised by the results of the survey, considering that many of us grew up in communities and households that valued conservation.  For my family, conserving resources was a way of life. My father would walk around our house in Los Angeles, turning off lights, and any water leak in the house was quickly tended to. My mother never wasted any food, even using days-old tortillas to make chilaquiles – a traditional Mexican dish – and using stale Mexican rolls in order to make breadcrumbs for cooking.   In our backyard we grew peaches, peppers, cactus, avocados, and a variety of herbs.  But when I ask my parents if they consider themselves environmentalists, they give me a glazed look.  They don’t consider what they do environmentalism, they consider what they do a part of their everyday life.

This new survey gives us empirical evidence that our community understands the problem of environmental degradation and believes in the right solutions. What is missing for most people is an understanding of how we get there.  That's why it is up to us to chart a path forward together and to ensure that people understand the role they can play in building a sustainable future.

This survey reveals some of the building blocks for developing campaigns with Latinos to protect the environment.  It finds that Latinos have serious concerns about issues related to their health and the health of their families, and that Latinos are less likely to support drilling for oil or the use of coal.  This is consistent with another finding from the survey, which shows that the message that most compels Latinos to support environmental protection initiatives is based around the moral obligation to protect the planet for future generations.  Latinos’ concern over the health consequences of environmental pollution is not surprising, given that a quarter of Latinos surveyed have at least one household member that suffers from asthma—a disease linked to pollution from industries like oil and coal.

Finally, the survey reveals that Latinos do not believe that protecting the environment results job loss.  In fact, survey participants believe you can produce jobs by protecting the environment.  Effectively communicating the environmental, economic and social benefits of standing up to polluters is key in order to galvanize support among Latinos.

But in order to turn Latinos into outspoken advocates for clean air and water, the work has to happen on the ground, door-to-door, person-to-person.  The work of using this information to have a conversation with someone and move them to action is up to all of us.  We can use the goal of protecting our land, water, and air as a vehicle to address the health, economic and social ills that our communities face, because our community knows and understands the value of tierra, agua y aire and how it all links us together.  We can link our movements and our efforts, to not only make our communities more resilient, but to also make our voices louder.  Because as diverse and complex as our communities are, we all have one thing in common: We all live on the same earth, and it’s the only one we have.

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