A new poll shows that Latino voters in six inland western states have strong pro-conservationist views, in some cases stronger than their white counterparts.
The 2012 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll found that Latino voters in the region nearly unanimously – 94 percent — view national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife areas as an essential part of their state’s economy.
The bi-partisan survey, released today, polled 2400 voters in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, and was conducted by Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. The poll was funded by the Hewlett Foundation.
Pollster Dave Metz said the survey dispels the notion that ethnic communities, particularly hard hit in the economic downturn, are “more willing than others to let the environment take a back seat to economy.”
Of the 336 Latino voters polled, 87 percent said they believe it is possible to protect land and water and have a strong economy with good jobs at the same time, compared to 78 percent of the general public.
The poll also shows Latino voters in the region want more “public investment” in conservation efforts, Metz said.
“A solid majority of Latinos, even facing state budget problems, [want the state to] invest in land, water, and state parks,” he said. “Latinos believe those resources make important contributions to the state economy.”
Overall, Latino voters were most concerned about cuts to funding for state parks and environmental protections.
Maite Arce, executive director of the Hispanic Access Foundation based in Washington, D.C., said she wasn’t surprised by Latino voters’ strong pro-conservationist beliefs, and says it is in line with their cultural values.
“For Latinos, family is really critical, health is really critical,” she said. “There’s just a strong connection in our heritage to the outdoors, wildlife, land, air. I think the experience of grandfathers and grandmothers [back] in home countries…are definitely still ingrained in who we are. [It’s] the connection to the land.”
Latino voters also expressed strong concern for air and water pollution, including the impact of oil and gas drilling on the environment, compared to the general public. The sentiments help to explain high levels of support among Latinos for federal clean air and water protections, and the development of renewable energy.
All respondents showed strong support for clean air protections under the U.S. EPA, but support among Latino voters was even stronger (81 percent versus 70 percent for the general public).
Eighty percent of Latino voters want America to wean itself off coal, oil and gas, and expand the use of renewable energy such as solar and wind, compared to 65 percent of the general public.
The poll also found that Latino voters were more likely than other respondents to view renewable energy as a jobs creation engine. Seventy-eight percent of Latino voters agreed that renewable energy like solar and wind will create new jobs in their state, compared to 68 percent for the general public.
“Four out of five [Latino voters] see the job creating potential of renewable energy,” said pollster Dave Metz, during a telephone media briefing on Monday.
Arce says she was surprised by the strong support Latino voters showed to designate public lands to national monuments. Nearly three-fourths of Latino voters in the region held this belief.
“We definitely have heard Hispanics want to know more about parks and monuments,” said Arce. “[There’s] not enough awareness about the local monuments.”
Latino voters in the poll also tended to be younger than other respondents, suggesting a growing political influence in the region, Metz said.
“The Latino population as a whole is overwhelmingly younger,” Metz said. “[And for] registered voters, it is a younger population. It’s indicative of where the region is headed. This is a rising segment of the electorate.”