Why Latinx Voters Make Nevada the First Climate Primary

Illustration for article titled Why Latinx Voters Make Nevada the First Climate Primary
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With the New Hampshire primaries wrapped, all eyes are on Nevada, where the nation’s next presidential caucus is merely 10 days away. It’s the first caucus or primary in a state whose population is mostly people of color, so candidates would be foolish to ignore them—especially if they care about climate change. Climate justice is a racial justice issue, after all.

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The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and Nevada Conservation League shared exclusive poll data with Earther that shows climate change is the top priority for voters in the southwestern state of Nevada. That’s especially true among Latinx voters, a growing political force in the state.

According to the polling results, 86 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers think climate change and the environment are very important or “the most important issue.” Addressing climate change came second to access to universal healthcare as the most important issue for voters when deciding whom to vote for. Twenty-one percent went with climate change, and 28 percent went with universal healthcare.

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LCV hired Public Policy Polling to conduct the surveys, which included 859 likely Democratic caucus-goers. More than half of the surveys were done via text, and 48 percent were done over the phone between January 29 and 30. The respondents’ unity behind climate was striking to Jim Williams, a polling analyst with Public Policy Polling. He told Earther it’s “pretty unusual” even within a political party to see such broad agreement on an issue. I guess the threat of eternal doom has a way of bringing people together.

However, the results tell an even more interesting story if you take a closer look at Latinx respondents. Climate change was the most important issue. It came out on top of universal healthcare and immigration reform. Latinxs surveyed were more likely to choose climate change as their issue than the white, indigenous, Asian American, or black people surveyed.

While 3 percent of indigenous participants chose climate change as their most important issue, 28 percent of Latinxs did. Twenty-five percent of white participants chose climate change as their top issue, making it the winner for this racial demographic, but the number still puts Latinxs on top for prioritizing climate change.

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That’s consistent with previous polling showing Latinxs are very into climate action. Nearly 20 percent of voters in this state are Latinx, and Latinx Democratic voters are really invested in this election. Whoever wins this caucus has the potential to emerge as the real climate candidate given how much Democratic Latinxs in the state care about the issue.

FiveThirtyEight polls show Senator Bernie Sanders in the lead. A December 2019 national poll show he’s favored among Latinx voters, particularly younger ones. If folks are voting with climate in mind, Sanders has the highest rating from Greenpeace. He’s trying to pass a ban on fracking now as senator, and many scientists support his plan to combat climate change. And with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by his side, Sanders has a strong Latinx and climate supporter in his corner. And his messages around climate justice could well resonate with Latinx voters in particular.

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“Latinx communities are hit first and hardest by climate, so it’s not surprising to see that climate change is the most important issue for Nevada Latinx voters in deciding who to support for president,” Rudy Zamora, program director of Chispa Nevada, an organizing program of LCV, said in a statement shared with Earther. “If 2020 candidates want to win the Latinx vote in Nevada, they must understand the relationship that our communities have with our environment and make it a priority to address climate injustices.”

Latinxs across the U.S. face a disproportionate impact from polluted air. Latinx kids are twice as likely to die from asthma as white kids. In Nevada, parents and community organizers have been focusing on electrifying school buses to keep diesel pollution far away from school-age children and Governor Steve Sisolak passed a bill to kickstart this effort last year.

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There’s also the threat of extreme heat: More than 33 percent of the state’s construction workers are immigrants, most of whom are Latinx. They face increased risk from the rise in temperatures climate change is bringing because they sometimes work outside all day.

Latinxs in the state want climate action, and whoever wins Nevada just might be the True Climate Candidate.

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Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.

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DISCUSSION

don’t you mean Nevadx?