California's Minorities Lead Fight Against Plastic Pollution

While communities of color are growing faster in California than other populations, their views on environmental issues are not easy to tease out of the overall conversation about issues like plastic pollution. But according to a new poll and a series of focus group reports in the state, minority populations favor policies to fight plastic pollution more than other demographics.

The public opinion research firm FM3 conducted a survey of 1,200 registered voters in Los Angeles and San Jose who identified themselves as Latino, African-American, Asian or Pacific Islander, Native American or some other non-white ethnicity via landline and mobile phone in English, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese during April 2016. Among the key findings:

  • Communities of color clearly see plastic pollution as a serious problem for California's environment, despite using a variety of plastic items more frequently than Californians at large.
  • Voters of color overwhelmingly support local plastic bag bans, even after being presented with arguments both for and against. They report being open to taking a variety of personal actions to curb plastic pollution.
  • Eighty-six percent of respondents from communities of color support having a local plastic bag ban in their community. By contrast, an October 2014 Los Angeles Times survey found that 60 percent of Californians overall support a ban — a 26 point difference.
  • Sixty-eight percent of respondents report seeing plastic pollution in their parks, streets, and neighborhoods. Only 44 percent of those in the general population encounter plastic pollution on a regular basis.
  • Eighty-seven percent of respondents were very likely or somewhat likely to reduce their use of plastic bags. Seventy-three percent would even consider stopping using plastic bags entirely.
  • Along with water pollution and climate change, more than three-quarters of voters of color rate plastics as top issues for the environment.

2016 Top Problems Facing California's Environment
Percent rating 'very' or 'extremely' serious
(All voters category from 2013)

PROBLEMALL VOTERSALL VOTERS OF COLORLATINOSASIANS/PACIFIC ISLANDERSAFRICAN-AMERICANSOTHER
Water pollution54 %80 %85 %62 %83 %86 %
Climate changeN/A78 %76 %76 %86 %82 %
Plastic and other trash on beaches and in the oceanN/A75 %81 %55 %87 %83 %
Plastic and other trash in parks and neighborhoodsN/A74 %76 %66 %79 %79 %
Air pollution54 %73 %78 %53 %85 %81 %
Loss of wildlife habitat55 %65 %67 %55 %68 %73 %
Too much growth and developmentN/A44 %49 %26 %55 %45 %

Source: Fairbanks, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates

Related: Plastic Pollution: A Social Justice Perspective

"Latinos are very supportive of local plastic bag bans because reusable bags are a deeply ingrained tradition,” said Irma R. Muñoz, President and Founder of Mujeres de la Tierra. “This poll confirms what we see in our communities — a common sense approach to environmental conservation focused on making the most of our resources." 

“From this poll and from the thousands of conversations we've had with Asian voters, we know that Asian Pacific Islanders in the Bay Area and across the state want to see environmental justice in their communities,” said Laiseng Saechao, State Organizer at Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN). “Our communities are deeply impacted by pollution and must continue to lead the way towards solutions that create healthy neighborhoods and economic prosperity for all." 

Read the report at StopPlasticBags.org.


Photo: SF Bay margaretkilljoy via Foter / CC BY-NC-SA