Climate change will make the difference in Latino voting trends on Election Day
In the four years since President Donald Trump descended down his golden escalator to first announce his candidacy for the White House, four million Latinos have become eligible to vote.
In 2020, with 32 million individuals eligible to vote, Latinos will be the second-largest voting bloc in the election, marking the first time Latinos will be the largest minority group making up the American electorate.
This has significant and substantial impacts on campaigns up and down the ballot and presents a strong opportunity for candidates to boldly lean into climate action when speaking to America’s diverse Latino population.
Climate change is among the most important issues Latinos say would energize them to support a candidate come November. It’s easy to understand why. Latinos are already living with the consequences of climate change — facing extreme weather, pollution, and heat at far higher rates than their white counterparts.
The data is alarming. Latino children face disproportionate exposures to air pollutants, pesticides, and toxic industrial chemicals, all of which contribute to higher rates of asthma, lead and mercury poisoning, behavioral and developmental disorders, and certain cancers.
Latinos are 51 percent more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone than non-Hispanic whites. Moreover, 55 percent of Latinos live in three states that are already experiencing serious effects related to climate change: historic drought and fires in California, record-breaking heat in Arizona, Nevada, Texas, and increased sea-level rise and flooding in Florida.
When Hurricane María hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, the storm left lasting consequences still felt today. That catastrophic event displaced more than 130.000 people, threw the island’s economy into turmoil, and caused health — both mental and physical — impacts we’re still trying to understand today. But this was not a once-in-a-generation storm. Puerto Rico and Latinos living on the mainland, are already facing the brunt of a more active and dangerous hurricane season due to human-caused global warming.
It’s clear: the climate crisis is not a far off event or looming threat to Latinos. It’s their everyday lives.
A 2020 poll from Latino Decisions found that Latino voters in Florida and Arizona care deeply about climate change and want their elected leaders to take bold action. That survey found that 70 percent of Latino voters say it’s very or extremely important that the next president and new Congress pass legislation that aggressively combats climate change.
A July Climate Power 2020 poll found that most Latinos believe in the importance of leaving a better world for future generations and an overwhelming 77 percent of Latino voters support strong messages of action to combat the climate crisis.
This strong connection to the climate crisis cannot be ignored in 2020. Latino voters by-and-large disapprove of Trump, but they are not sold on former Vice President Joe Biden and Democrats. These communities want to hear specific plans on the issues that matter most to their families: health care, jobs, education, immigration, and climate change.
That same Climate Power 2020 poll found that a strong climate message by Biden moves his margin of Latino support by 4 points.
For the last four years, Latinos’ concern with climate have been met with inaction and, worse, with an administration who’ve sold all Americans out to prioritize the needs of Big Oil. They’ve been forced to live with the consequences of a president who doesn’t care about the Latino community or the air they breathe, the water they drink, or the areas where their children play.
In 2020, they are looking for a candidate who promises to change that.
John Podesta, former senior advisor to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and an advisory board member of Climate Power 2020.
Luis V. Gutiérrez represented the 4th Congressional District of Illinois for more than 25 years and has been a leading advocate for immigration reform, health care, and climate action.