2012-10-05 18:48:37

Latinos a ‘Core Conservation Community,’ Poll Finds

Latino voters in California are strong supporters of conservation and clean energy, a new poll released Thursday finds. The poll adds to a growing consensus that minorities across the state are strong conservationists, though some say more research is needed to uncover regional differences.

The poll found that two-thirds of Latino voters identify as conservationists and overwhelmingly believe they can “protect the environment and create jobs at the same time.”

The poll was commissioned by the California League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, and conducted by Tulchin Research. The firm polled 500 Latino voters from September 5-13 in English and Spanish.

“Latinos are a core conservation community in California,” said Jerilyn López Mendoza, a CLCV Education Fund Board Member, during a tele-briefing on Thursday.

She said she was “not surprised” by the poll findings, but added it was important to have updated data on Latino environmental attitudes.

For example, Mendoza said, the poll highlighted the wide range of environmental concerns in the community -- from clean air and water to investments in renewable and clean energy and protection of fragile habitats.

It found that nearly all Latinos (96 percent) supported energy conservation, and 91 percent favor renewable energy such as solar and wind power.

CLCV Education Fund conducted the first-ever environmental survey of California Latinos in 2000. Thursday’s poll further confirms that “conservation is a core Latino value,” said pollster Ben Tulchin, adding that the new poll highlights this sentiment with even greater “intensity, depth, and breadth.”

Latinos account for nearly 38 percent of California’s population – about 14 million. Though a growing voting bloc, Latinos make up just 16 percent of those most likely to vote, according to surveys by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Susana De Anda, co-director and co-founder of the Community Water Center in Visalia, Calif., said she agreed that “Latinos value the environment,” especially the role it plays in enhancing the health of the family.

The poll found that toxic pollution, water pollution, and “pollution threatening your family’s health and well being” rate as the top environmental concerns among Latinos.

De Anda emphasized that it is an important next step to get more granular data about Latino environmental attitudes, especially in regions that have seen the most growth in terms of their Latino populations, such as inland parts of the state and the Central Valley.

“We’re one in the state, but we’re in different situations,” she said. For example, De Anda, said residents in the Central Valley have been bombarded by messages “pitting jobs against the environment,” that may affect their outlook.

De Anda said getting to know Latino voters better will help to craft effective environmental messages to these communities.

That’s key, says Adán Ortega Jr., Chair of the Board of the Los Angeles-based Mujeres de la Tierras, adding that “we [Latinos] not only support conservation; we live it.”

As an example, he says, Latinos in the Los Angeles area live in “high-density” housing, which tends to be older and less energy and water efficient.

When government officials go into communities to promote water conservation, he says, they often emphasize buying low-flush toilets. They don’t address poor infrastructure – such as dilapidated housing with leaking pipes – that waste water.

“Meet us where we are at and give us the support and resources to take us to the next step,” he said, adding that the next step is “a place at the table.”

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