Poll: Climate Change Is a Key Issue in the Midterm Elections Among Likely Voters of Color

About 70 percent of people of color who responded to a recent poll said climate change had an impact on their home regions or communities.

Eighty-six percent of Asian American and Pacific Islander respondents,  about 72 percent of African Americans and 76 percent of Hispanic voters said their communities had been affected, according to the survey. 

Those findings, released Thursday, come from a nationwide survey of 1,000 likely voters likely voters conducted earlier this month by Green 2.0, a watchdog group that promotes inclusion in the environmental movement. The survey has a 3.1 percentage point margin of error for the entire poll, the group said. The margin of error for Black and Hispanic respondents was 9.8 percentage points and 9.7 percentage points for respondents who were Asian American and Pacific Islanders. 

The survey found that 64 percent of all of the people of color who responded to the survey were either “much more likely” or “somewhat more likely” to support Congressional candidates who indicated that “addressing climate change” is one of their top three priorities. Roughly 81 percent of Asian American and Pacific Islanderswere more likely to support such candidates; about 77 percent of Black Americans and 76 percent of Hispanicswere likely to do the same.

The results also underscored the far-reaching effects of climate change. Asian American and Pacific Islanders reported that their communities were most affected by droughts, Black Americans noted the severe impacts of flooding, and Hispanic communities said that they had been most affected by wildfires.

To Andres Jimenez, executive director of Green 2.0, the results demonstrate the importance of politicians and policy makers focusing their outreach efforts on people of color.

“It’s really a testament that candidates need to stop shying away from the issues of climate change because it is a winning priority among voters of color,” Jimenez said in an interview. “It should be a game changer for candidates who are going to communities of color, working with leaders of color to really prioritize and work on these issues, to listen to these communities, to talk about climate change, because it is on voters’ minds as they head to the polls.”

Jimenez said another significant aspect of the poll results was they showed how climate change has become a key point of concern across the communities that were surveyed. Among Asian American and Pacific Islanders, climate change was listed as the second most important issue facing Americans today (after inflation). For Black Americans, climate was the fifth most important issue (following inflation, gun violence, job growth and abortion). Hispanic respondents said the environment was the fourth most important issue (after inflation, gun violence and job growth).

“Historically, we’ve always heard that environmental issues are kind of on the bottom,” he said. “They’re not only one of the top priorities, but with this polling, what we found is that at this point, environmental issues, climate change issues have broken through. They are something that voters care about. It’s on par with other really important issues—abortion and reproductive rights, immigration and gun violence—and that’s extremely encouraging.”

Jimenez said the survey of 1,000 people was conducted from Sept. 29 to Oct. 4. In addition to the findings about political candidates, the results showed that communities of color—which  historically have borne a disproportionate share of the burden from environmental harms—have a strong desire for greater diversity among environmental groups.

“What we’re seeing here is that when we talk about environmental issues, there is a drastic want for there to be diverse voices, diverse views,” Jimenez said. “What this is saying is: ‘Climate change impacts communities of color, frontline communities the most. And as we move forward to be aggressive and to accelerate the conversation around climate change and to address these issues, we need diversity within those conversations.’”

Jimenez said he hopes the survey results might prompt increased dialogue between communities of color and the government officials who represent them and the political candidates who would like to.

“Maybe this finds a candidate somewhere who hasn’t gone in and hasn’t talked to communities of color around those issues,” he said of the results. “We’re hoping that this poll reaches those types of candidates and that they’re inspired by this and go and speak with these communities, but also take time to listen to what these communities have to say about how climate change is impacting their communities, their families and themselves.”

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For those who work at the intersection of climate change and voter participation, the results of the poll were intriguing.

“I think a good thing about this poll is that it teases out the difference between voter preferences and voter priorities,” said Nathaniel Stinnett, founder and executive director of the Environmental Voter Project. “Because, yeah, there are a lot of polls that show and this one does as well, that large majorities of Americans support government action on climate change. But just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it is important to voters.”

Stinnett said he was not surprised by the poll’s findings that respondents desired a greater sense of inclusion in the movement.

“It’s been pretty clear for a while that the environmental movement has not been nearly as representative and diverse as it ought to be,” Stinnett said. “And it doesn’t surprise me at all that people recognize that.”

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