African Americans say Climate Change is a Priority

Dr. David A. Bositis, the Joint Center’s senior political analyst, wrote a guest editorial for The Tennessean that shared findings from the the multi-state poll of African American’s opinion on climate change. The following is the text from the article:

David Bositis

According to a new poll released last week, African-Americans in four key states, Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri and South Carolina, rank climate change as a voting issue that could affect the 2010 U.S. Senate elections in their states.

The poll from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies takes a look at the priorities and voting patterns of African-Americans. It is the first state-level poll on how this key Obama administration priority fares among African-Americans. Observers say these states, which feature closely watched midterm elections, are crucial to enactment of national global-warming legislation.

Front-page stories have reported that national surveys say global warming, as perceived by the American public, is at the bottom of the list of national priorities. In the Joint Center’s national survey released last fall and recently released state-level surveys, more than half the respondents said they will consider global warming when voting for elected officials; a majority were willing to increase their energy bills to combat climate change.

The Joint Center’s poll shows that African-Americans in these four states, like Americans overall, overwhelmingly prioritize the economy, with health care a distant second. Yet the respondents in the four states were asked individually about economic recovery, health care and global warming with 80 percent saying the economy would influence their vote and 76 percent saying health care would inform their vote.

About 48 percent said global warming will be very important in informing their vote for U.S. senator. The poll showed that global warming is 60 percent as important as the economy and 63 percent as important as health care. Given how many African-Americans are suffering in this down economy as well as the enormous health problems they face, that 60 percent means global warming is a very real concern.

There were two other questions in the survey that validate this analysis. In these four states, 36 percent to 49 percent of black adults say global warming is a major problem, and 25 percent to 30 percent say it is a moderate problem. More important still, in all four states, clear majorities (55 percent to 64 percent) of African-American adults said they would be willing to pay $10 more per month on their electric bill to fight global warming; 1 in 3 said they would be willing to pay $25 more per month; and 1 in 6 would agree to $50 per month.

The poll comes as the Joint Center and its Commission to Engage African-Americans on Climate Change announces a major push to work with African-American communities, business leaders and elected officials across the country, encouraging discussion and knowledge sharing on global warming over the next several months.

With the down economy and high unemployment, the country is going through a rough patch, but that doesn’t mean the public wants to surrender in the fight against global warming.

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