March 2, 2015 | By Dina Smeltz, Sara McElmurry

Climate Change, Community Hot in Luring Latino Votes

Moving into the 2016 campaign season, savvy politicians are recognizing that Latinos are a growing and complex political force and will work to earn their favor at the voting booth. Political leaders have already taken notice of Latinos’ ability to sway the 2012 presidential elections in Barack Obama’s favor, and that was with only 48 percent of the Latino electorate voting. More recently, in Chicago’s contentious mayoral race, Hispanic voters rallied behind Jesús “Chuy” García by a margin of 56 to 34, forcing incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel into the first runoff in the city’s history. As politicians in Chicago and beyond look to woo this influential voting bloc, recent surveys have pointed to what could be unlikely talking points for future campaigns:  climate change and community. 
 
Results from a new study by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs corroborate recent polling by The New York Times, Stanford University, Resources for the Future and others:  Hispanics are much more likely than non-Hispanics to consider climate change a critical threat to the United States. The Pew Research Center finds that Latinos are more likely to say that climate change is caused by human activity. Andaccording to Chicago Council Survey results, Latinos are also more likely to agree that the United States isn’t doing enough on the issue and to favor expanding the federal budget for environmental protection. 
 
But climate change is not the only international issue on which Latino opinion differs from other Americans. Perhaps it is no surprise that Latinos feel less threatened by immigration and are thus less likely to prioritize controlling and reducing immigration as a very important foreign policy goal. Latinos are also more positive toward the UN and are more likely to name combating hunger a pressing goal.
 
While these differences set Latinos apart in their views, a candidate interested in earning the Latino vote must also realize that a Hispanic-American political agenda is essentially an American one—with a distinctly domestic focus. Polling over at least the past decade has shown that like other Americans, Latinos are most concerned about economic well-being. Protecting American jobs was priority No. 1 for both Hispanics and non-Hispanics in the 2014 Chicago Council survey.
 
Moreover, Chicago Council Survey results demonstrate that Hispanic-Americans share very similar foreign policy views with the mainstream U.S. public. Like other Americans, Latinos favor strong U.S. leadership in the world and consider the United States to be the most influential nation now and in 10 years’ time. Latinos and non-Latinos alike consider terrorism, nuclear proliferation, Iran’s nuclear program and cyber-attacks to be critical threats to U.S. vital interests. Both groups support a foreign policy that relies on multiple means of diplomatic and economic engagement, including alliances, treaties and trade agreements.  And finally, majorities of Latinos and non-Latinos support the use of U.S. troops to help prevent a government from committing genocide, to deal with humanitarian crises, to ensure the oil supply, to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and to combat terrorism.
 
Latino voters’ concern for community may partially explain the history-making developments in the Chicago mayoral contest, a race increasingly characterized by a split between downtown and neighborhood interests. Chicago candidates will have just a few weeks to make their case to Hispanic voters. Meanwhile, at the federal level, the Obama administration is has put forth proposals addressing both climate change and aid to Central America—which would help stem migration from the region—in recent weeks. Republican leaders might strike these down, and they would have their reasons. But if they want to attract Latino voters in the future, they should propose some alternatives. Continuing to dismiss these issues is missing a key—and growing—electoral target.  

About

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

Archive

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