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Latinos Polled: Environment, Immigration Equally Important

A new poll says Latinos care deeply about the environment. As a group, studies show they are highly vulnerable to pesticide, air and industrial pollution, largely because of their jobs. Credit: wasan gredpree/iStock
A new poll says Latinos care deeply about the environment. As a group, studies show they are highly vulnerable to pesticide, air and industrial pollution, largely because of their jobs. Credit: wasan gredpree/iStock
August 19, 2015

Latinos are vitally interested in environmental issues, which they see as just as important as immigration when it comes to how they vote. That's one takeaway from a poll released Tuesday by the law firm EarthJustice and the national nonprofit GreenLatinos.

In the survey, 82 percent of Latinos said they are "somewhat or very concerned" about climate change. Adrian Pantoja, a pollster with Latino Decisions who teaches political and Chicano studies at Pitzer College, said recent immigrants in particular are worried about the toll a changing climate will take on their family members in Latin America.

"Those trans-border ties make them sensitive and aware to environmental dangers in less-developed nations, like drought, flooding or weather patterns associated with climate change," he said.

The poll showed that two-thirds of Latinos also believe human activity causes climate change - a view shared by just 52 percent of the American public as a whole.

More than two-thirds of Latinos surveyed called air pollution and clean drinking water "serious concerns" for their families. Randy Jurado Ertll, executive director of the California Latino Environmental Advocacy Network, said the environment is a big priority for Latinos, because they are disproportionately affected by pollution.

"Low-income Latinos, they've ended up working in agricultural fields and in polluting industries, like in southeast Los Angeles," he said. "They're the ones who are mostly impacted by the toxics and chemicals, because they're the cheap labor that gets taken advantage of."

The survey also found that Latinos reject the argument that environmental protections hurt the economy - and almost three-quarters said they're "somewhat" or "much more likely" to vote for a politician who protects the environment, findings that could have major implications for the 2016 election.

The full poll is online at earthjustice.org.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA