Sustainability Climate Change

Why the Nevada caucuses will be America’s first climate primary

latinx latino nevada hispanic caucus goers democrat environment climate change priority
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Story at a glance

  • A new survey conducted by the League of Conservation Voters and the Nevada Conservation League shows Democratic caucusgoers prioritizing climate change as a major issue for 2020.
  • Analyzing the data, Latinx voters make it their first political policy concern, topping immigration and health care.
  • Latinx voters are concerned that the negative effects of climate change tend to affect their communities first.

Democratic presidential candidates are pivoting to Nevada, the first state in the nominating process whose population is comprised mostly of people of color — who have somewhat different concerns and interests than voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.

A new poll reveals that one of their top priorities is climate change. The cause is particularly important to Latinx voters, who represent a growing political force in the Western state.

According to data collected by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and the Nevada Conservation League, 86 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers listed climate and environmental protection as “very important” or the “most important” issue to them in 2020. Health care edges out climate change for the No. 1 policy concern, but the data show environmental concerns consistently appear as one of the top two issues among voters.

For Latinx caucusgoers, climate change is the most important issue, topping health care concerns and immigration policy.

The data firm Public Policy Polling collected the surveys, which featured 859 likely Democratic caucusgoers, according to Earther. More than half the surveys were conducted via text, while the remaining 48 percent were conducted over the phone in English or Spanish from Jan. 29-30.

The respondents showed solid unity on ranking climate change a high priority in the 2020 elections, but that sentiment was even stronger among Latinx voters. 

Similar results that indicate Latinx caucusgoers intend to make climate the most pressing policy issue include 47 percent of Latino/Hispanic-identifying respondents who said they are “much more likely” to support a candidate who makes climate change a top priority, according to one interview question. Another cohort of Latinx respondents, 38 percent, said candidates do not talk about climate change enough. 

Additionally, 50 percent of Latino/Hispanic-identfiying respondents said they support the Green New Deal, a proposal on Capitol Hill aimed at combating climate change and economic inequality.

Rudy Zamora, the program director of Chispa Nevada, an organization arm of LCV, suggests that this data reflects the racial component of climate change.

“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,” Zamora told Earther.

Lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who sponsored the Green New Deal in the House, have based their platforms on the racial and economic inequality that accompanies climate change.

Department of Health and Human Services data show that Hispanic children are twice as likely to die from asthma compared to non-Hispanic whites as a result of air pollution and asthma attacks. Data from 2015 shows that 5.9 percent of Hispanic adults are diagnosed with asthma as opposed to 0.7 percent of non-Hispanic white adults.

“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,” Zamora said.

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