Climate Change Is Key To Turning Out Latino Voters

Photo: Reuters via Grist

The vast majority of Latinos in the U.S. are very concerned or even alarmed about climate change and will vote for candidates with strong policies on global warming, which could make a difference in tightly contested states with large Latino populations like Arizona and Florida.   It could even put Texas in play for Democrats if they are the focus of mobilization efforts, according to Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.  Leiserowitz told NexusMedia that Latinos,  “could potentially make a really big difference in states like Texas and Colorado and Arizona.”  But Jeremy Deaton of Nexus Media reports that experts like Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, of the University of Texas, are concerned because politicians are failing to reach Latinos or failing to speak to issues Latinos care about.

Why This Matters:  Latino turnout is lower than whites and some other minority groups, which could be because of voter suppression efforts like longer wait times at polling places according to a new report by The Brennan Center for Justice.  However, Yale’s research suggests that Latino turnout would increase if candidates had stronger climate policies and politicians and NGOs did a better job of communicating them to this important voting block.  

Very Concerned or Alarmed

The Yale Climate Communications Center has done polling that shows that Americans divide up into six groups on climate change ranging from “Alarmed” voters who care the most to “Dismissive” who care the least about climate change.  Latinos who only speak Spanish are more than twice as likely to be “Alarmed” about climate change as non-Latinos.  However, Latinos are also “less likely than other ‘Alarmed’ Americans to say they have been contacted by an organization working on climate change, a shocking failure of public outreach,” according to Yale’s research, demonstrating a structural bias when it comes to climate activism and outreach.   As Leiserowitz explains, “That is the whole point of an advocacy organization — they recruit people….I think there are plenty of reasons to be engaging this community and really investing in this community.”  And that Latino voters are more likely to understand climate change and demand stronger policies is not new — polling back in 2015 revealed the growing disparity between Latinos and other Americans.

More Than Immigration Issues 
One problem may be that politicians and advocacy organizations believe that immigration is the issue that most motivates Latino voters.  But because of the Trump Administration’s terrible response to Hurricane Maria, which caused a huge migration of Puerto Ricans to relocate to the mainland, many Latino voters are highly motivated to vote due to climate change.  Ramon Cruz, who was recently elected president of the Sierra Club, is the first Latino to hold the position.  He is focusing the organization on mobilizing Latinos and he believes his election as the club’s president partly due to the central role that Latinos will play in the climate movement. The Sierra Club is publishing materials in Spanish and reaching out to groups in key states like Arizona and Florida to motivate them to vote in order to ensure President Trump is not re-elected. “Clearly, there are a lot of people who would like to see him gone, but the challenge is how to mobilize those people,” Cruz told Nexus Media.  

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