Theres a stereotype or myth pervading our nation that only white, affluent liberals concern themselves with the state of global warming. But new findings show that Hispanics are just as concerned, if not more, about the environment.
Alfredo Padilla is a migrant farmworker from Texas who followed the harvest with his parents to pick sugar beets in Minnesota each summer, according to the New York Times.
The weather affected his family very much, the crops often becoming useless if too much or too little rain fell.
Its obviously happening, the flooding, the record droughts, said Padilla, who agrees with the science that human activities are the leading cause of climate change. And all this affects poor people harder. The jobs are more based on weather. And when there are hurricanes, when there is flooding, who gets hit the worst? The people on the poor side of town.
According to a poll conducted last month by The New York Times, Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future, (in which Mr. Padilla participated), Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to view global warming as a problem that affects them personally.
Hispanics typically rate immigration, education and employment as the top issues on which they vote, but the poll shows even more evidence that Hispanics also care intensely about environmental issues. Among Hispanic respondents to the poll, 54 percent rated global warming as extremely or very important to them personally, 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.
The survey also showed that Hispanics are more likely to support policies that are aimed at curbing greenhouse gas pollution, such as taxes and regulations.
So why are Hispanics more likely to be concerned with environmental issues?
One reason is the fact that Hispanics often live in areas where they are directly exposed to pollution, such as neighborhoods near highways and power plants.
A 2014 study in the scientific journal PLOS One found that nationally, minorities were exposed to concentrations of the toxic pollutant nitrogen dioxide 38 percent higher than what whites faced.
Nitrogen dioxide is linked to respiratory illness and, like planet-warming carbon dioxide, is spewed from vehicle tailpipes and power plant smokestacks. While it is not directly linked to global warming, populations that experience high levels of exposure to it are likely to be more supportive of pollution regulation, Sanchez said.
The 2016 presidential campaign will be significantly affected by the findings in this poll. Both parties will be making a tremendous effort to win votes from Hispanics, especially in states such as Florida and Colorado, where the total Hispanic vote will be incredibly influential in determining the outcome of the election.
Republicans will face even more difficulties because many of the potential presidential candidates, including two Hispanics, question or deny the scientific basis that humans caused global warming.
The most important thing is that candidates have to think about the Latino population as complex, Mr. Sanchez said. To ignore the environment is to ignore something that a large section of the Latino population sees as important.