Climate, Pollution and Masks Unite Californians – But Black and Latino Voters Most Concerned

A protester takes part in a Bike Rides for Black Lives demonstration in Los Angeles on July 12. California's Black and Latino voters are the most concerned about the health impacts of COVID-19, pollution and climate change, according to a new PPIC poll. (MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Strong majorities of Californians remain concerned about the impacts of climate change and pollution, according to a new poll, with voters of color more worried about the potential health impacts than white voters.

The Public Policy Institute of California survey found that Californians still support state policies aimed at tackling global warming — even in the middle of a global pandemic that 80% of state residents say has has disrupted their lives.

That support may derive from Californians' deep concerns about pollution: Nearly two-thirds of those polled said they view air pollution as a health threat to themselves and their family, while almost half are worried about polluted water.

Most concerned about those pollutants and their health impacts were Latino and Black Californians, the poll found.

"African Americans and Latinos are more likely than others to say that air and water pollution in their part of California are very serious health threats to themselves and their families,” stated PPIC President Mark Baldassare.

Baldassare said Californians place greater importance on addressing climate change than Americans do overall, citing national polls, and that 73% of those polled in the Golden State say they are willing to make major lifestyle changes to address global warming.

"In the midst of the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, Californians are highly supportive of the state's policies to address global warming," he said.

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Those policies include the state law requiring greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030; that all commercial trucks sold in California be zero emission by 2045; and that all electricity come from renewable sources by 2045.

In all three cases, 77% of poll respondents said they support those policies.

Latinos Most Concerned Over COVID-19, Whites Least Concerned

The poll also found deep concern among voters about getting sick from COVID-19 and about the pandemic's impact on their personal finances.

Latinos are the most concerned about a family member getting sick (61%) and about their financial security (56%), while whites are the least concerned (28% and 22%, respectively).

“Latinos, more than any other racial and ethnic group, say they are very worried about the personal health and financial impacts of the COVID-19 crisis,” Baldassare said.

That concern is reinforced by state data, which show that while Latinos represent 39% of California's population, they comprise 56% of the state's COVID-19 cases. Latinos are the only disproportionately represented racial or ethnic group in terms of total cases of the coronavirus.

One area where the poll found broad agreement was around masks: 74% of Californians, including 57% of Republicans, say that people in their community should always wear a mask in public.

That included solid majorities across geographic regions, with only 3% of respondents saying people should never wear a mask in public.

“An overwhelming majority of Californians say that people in their local area should always wear masks — and few say never — when they go to public places where they may be near others,” Baldassare said.

Californians are also more likely to trust state government (53%) to tackle climate change over the federal government (24%); and 83% said a candidates' environmental positions will have a role in determining who they vote for in November.

“When it comes to handling environmental issues, trust in the state government is much higher than the federal government, and approval of Gov. Newsom and the California Legislature is much higher than President Trump and Congress,” Baldassare said. “Eight in ten California likely voters say the presidential candidates’ positions on the environment are important in determining their vote, and seven in 10 say that Joe Biden would do a better job than Donald Trump on environmental issues.”

The poll also found overwhelming opposition (73%) to expanding offshore oil drilling, something the Trump administration has been exploring. Baldassare said most Californians believe the conditions of the state's beaches and oceans are "important to the state's future."

The poll, conducted between July 8 and 17, surveyed 1,561 California adult residents in both English and Spanish. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.4%.