Latinos Were Already Concerned About Climate Change. Then Came Maria..

October 7, 2017

Climate Denial and racism are joined at the hip it seems, as I’ve written many times. But we’ve never seen the ugly combination so grossly and simultaneously on display as we have in the post-Maria recovery efforts ongoing in Puerto Rico.

The slow response, and President Trump’s astonishing insults toward Puerto Rican Americans, have clearly made an impression on a demographic that could be important going forward.  Add to that – new polling (below) underlines, again, that Latinos as a group are the Americans most concerned about climate change.

New York Times:

Every day dozens of Puerto Ricans straggle into the Orlando area, fleeing their homes and lives ravaged by Hurricane Maria. In the months to come, officials here said, that number could surge to more than 100,000.

And those numbers could remake politics in Florida, a state where the last two presidential and governor’s races were decided by roughly one percentage point or less.

There are more than a million Puerto Ricans in Florida, a number that has doubled since 2001, driven largely until now by a faltering economy. But their political powers have evolved slowly in this state, and the wave of potential voters from the island could quickly change that calculus.

If the estimates hold, and several officials said they might be low, the Puerto Rican vote, which has been strongly Democratic, could have rough parity with the Cuban vote in the state, for years a bulwark for Republicans in both state and national races.

“What’s clear is that this is going to be a more powerful swing group,” said Anthony Suarez, a lawyer here, who has run for office as both a Republican and a Democrat. “Just like everybody has to go to Miami and stop in Versailles to have coffee to court the Cuban community, that is going to start happening here.”

In Central Florida, home to more than 350,000 Puerto Ricans, their political impact has already been felt. Last year, Representative Darren Soto, a Democrat, became the first member of Congress of Puerto Rican descent elected from Florida when he won a Central Florida district with a large Puerto Rican population.

Mr. Soto said any significant shift in population in such a highly competitive state could have an enormous impact.

“My district has the most island-born Puerto Ricans of any congressional district, and that is already changing Florida politics,” he said. And that change could be even more significant because of the widespread anger over President Trump’s response to the devastation caused by Maria — the president, accused of reacting slowly to the crisis, said islanders were not doing enough to help themselves.


The anger, Mr. Soto said, “could have huge repercussions.” “You just don’t attack people when they are down,” he added. “These are things people will remember.”

While Democrats see enormous potential for registering new voters, they know their efforts must wait until the newcomers’ urgent need for housing, jobs, schools and medical care is met. Central Florida will be a magnet for many of the migrants who will join families here in Orlando and in neighboring communities like Kissimmee. They will see signs of home in the grocery stores, shops and churches in an area where the Latino influence is abundantly evident.

In a ballroom of a Puerto Rican service organization here this week, a dozen men and women, including activists, a lawyer, an Orange County commissioner, a police officer and a psychotherapist, said the storm had brought the community together like never before.

“Now we see the necessity to come out and organize,” said Trini Quiroz, one of the activists. “So this tragedy brought us all together.”

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication:

Overall, we find a very consistent pattern: Latinos are much more engaged with the issue of global warming than are non-Latinos. Latinos are more convinced global warming is happening and human-caused, more worried about it, perceive greater risks, are more supportive of climate change policies, and are more willing to get involved politically. Within the Latino community, we find another consistent pattern: while Latinos, generally, are more engaged with the issue of global warming than are non-Latinos, Spanish-language Latinos are even more engaged than English-language Latinos.


  • More than eight in ten Latinos (84%) think global warming is happening, including nearly nine in ten Spanish-language Latinos (88%).
  • Six in ten Latinos (63%) are “very” or “extremely” sure global warming is happening, including seven in ten Spanish-language Latinos (70%).
  • Seven in ten Latinos (70%) understand global warming is mostly human caused, including three-quarters of Spanish-language Latinos (76%). By contrast, only about two in ten Latinos (21%) think it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment.
  • Three in four Latinos (78%) are worried about global warming; one in three (35%) are “very worried”, including 43% of Spanish-language Latinos, who are “very worried”.
  • Half of Latinos (50%) think people in the U.S. are being harmed by global warming “right now,” including nearly two in three Spanish-language Latinos (63%).
  • A majority of Latinos think global warming will cause “a great deal” of harm to plant and animal species (68%), future generations of people (64%), the world’s poor (61%), people in developing countries (55%), or their grandchildren (54%).
  • More than half of Latinos (53%) say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming.
  • About half of Latinos (48%) discuss global warming with family and friends “often” or “occasionally,” including 58% of Spanish-language Latinos.
  • Fewer than half of Latinos (41%) hear about global warming in the media at least once a month or more frequently.
  • Eight in ten Latinos (83%), including nine in ten Spanish-language Latinos (90%), say that global warming is at least “somewhat” important to them.
  • A large majority of Latinos (85%) support schools teaching children about global warming, including more than half (57%) who “strongly agree” that schools should teach children about it.
  • Nearly one in four Latinos say either providing a better life for our children and grandchildren or preventing the destruction of most life on the planet are the most important reasons to reduce global warming (each 23%).

Policy & Politics

  • Three in four Latinos want corporations and industry (77%), citizens themselves (74%), President Trump (74%), and the U.S. Congress (73%) to do more to address global warming.
  • A large majority of Latinos (68%) think the U.S. should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions “regardless of what other countries do.”
  • Eight in ten Latinos (81%) support requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax.
  • Half of Latinos “strongly support” funding more research into renewable energy (55%), regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant (50%), or providing tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (48%).
  • Many Latinos are willing to take political action on global warming, including a majority who would vote for a candidate for public office because of their position on global warming (60%). A majority are also willing to join a campaign to convince elected officials to take action to reduce global warming (51%), including 61% of Spanish-language Latinos.
  • Seven in ten Latinos (71%) have never been contacted by an organization working to reduce global warming.
  • Latinos face different barriers to contacting elected officials about global warming, including about three in four (73%) who say nobody has ever asked them, and more than six in ten (64%) say they do not know which elected officials to contact.

Tampa Bay Times:

“Florida is a big swing state and Central Florida is the epicenter of that,” Freytes said. “This could be a very big deal. There are going to be voter registration drives and both parties are going to be after them. They already are.”

More than 1 million Puerto Ricans already reside in Florida — some 1,000 families relocating each month — double the number in 2000 and now rivaling New York.

The growth, largely around Orlando but also in Tampa Bay, has outpaced the overall population increase in Florida as well as that of Hispanics overall.

Now Hurricane Maria could send as many as 100,000 more Puerto Ricans to the state, adding to growing political clout, just as waves of Cubans decades ago formed a potent voting bloc in Miami.

In a state of more than 20 million, it may not seem like a big deal. But top Florida elections are often decided by narrow margins. “It’s a state where little tiny changes matter,” said Democratic strategist Steve Schale.

4 Responses to “Latinos Were Already Concerned About Climate Change. Then Came Maria..”

  1. schwadevivre Says:

    And now there’s Nate – up to 14 named storms

  2. Jerry Falwel Says:

    92 percent of the mail is getting through in Puerto Rico, 77 percent of the gas stations are open, stores and banks are open as well, 56 percent of people have running water , the rest get water from trucks bringing it to them on those open roads. A shortage of trucks does exist as 80 percent of the port truck drivers are on strike for more money. Thousands of containers are sitting in San Juan waiting on trucks to carry supplies around the reopened roads.

    People do have a beef, cell service is down and FEMA requires you to file your application online and than send the relief documentation by fax machine from non existent fax machines run by non existent electricity. That is a real problem that needs to be addressed.

  3. Jerry Falwel Says:

    Incidentally the claim the drivers are on strike is disputed by the teamsters union and the local union not affiliated with the teamsters. However, the local union is most of the drivers not showing up so we have an unofficial strike by people wanting more more who were to go on strike before the hurricane, the excuse is the local drivers have to take care of their families first but any excuse in a storm is a good excuse.

  4. […] Wise western politicians would do well especially to pay attention to changing demographics that are favoring residents who care about the environmental and recreational value of their surroundings, and Latinos, who lead all demographic groups in concern about climate change. […]

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