New Poll Shows Many White Americans Unaware of Unequal Burden of Pollution

More Black and Latino respondents are “very concerned” about pollution in their communities

October 26, 2020
Keith Gaby, (202) 572-3336,
Dana Johnson, (773) 495-1677,

(NEW YORK - October 26, 2020) A new poll released today by WE ACT for Environmental Justice and Environmental Defense Fund reveals that many white Americans don’t recognize the higher levels of pollution in Black, Latino and low-income neighborhoods.

The poll, conducted nationally by Morning Consult, found that fewer than 4 in 10 white adults are aware that both Latino and Black communities face more pollution than the general population. In addition, 60% of respondents across the U.S. who identified as Black said they were very concerned about air pollution exposure in their community versus 32% of white adult respondents.

Perceptions of environmental impacts varied along racial and ethnic lines as well, as 51% of Black respondents and 48% of Latino respondents believe that environmental injustice is a major problem in the U.S., versus 33% of white adult respondents. Black and Latino respondents also reported high concern about climate change in their local community, with 52% of those who identify as Black and 50% of people who identify as Latino saying they are “very concerned” versus 38% of those who identify as white.

“We must challenge and change the biases that perpetuate an inequitable and unjust response to the climate crisis and that starts with establishing a common knowledge base about environmental exposures and their impacts,” said Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “The hope is that this poll will facilitate substantive discourse that brings energy democracy and economic benefit to low-income communities, improves indoor and outdoor air quality to meet rigorous standards, and produces green spaces and healthy food systems that positively influence our morbidity and mortality rates.”

“Government policies and private sector decisions have led to higher levels of pollution and dangerous health impacts in Black and Latino neighborhoods – yet this poll shows not enough white Americans understand the reality these communities face. We need to continue educating and, at the same time, advocate for specific policies to address this unacceptable inequity,” said Fred Krupp, president of EDF. “I’m grateful to WE ACT for partnering with us on this poll so we can start to close this knowledge gap and push for action.”

The survey shows that concern about climate change and its impact on the economy is more prevalent among Black and Latino respondents than white respondents.

  • 68% of Latino respondents, and 66% of Black respondents say climate change is a major problem, compared to 53% of white respondents
  • 65% of Black respondents say climate change is a threat to the economy in their local community, compared to only 51% of white respondents who said so, a 14 point difference.
  • 71% of Black respondents say climate change has impacted the U.S. economy, while only 55% of white respondents say so.

By significant margins, all Black, Latino and white Americans responding to the poll want the U.S. to prioritize passing legislation to increase use of clean energy and clean transportation. Seven in ten respondents (81% Black, 73% Latino, 71% white) agree that clean energy jobs would help people in communities like their own.

More information on how pollution and climate change impact Black and Latino communities is available here and here.

Morning Consult conducted a survey, on behalf of Environmental Defense Fund and WE ACT, between October 9th – October 11th, 2020 among a national sample of 2,200 adults. The interviews were conducted online. Results from the survey have a margin error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

View the national poll memo here.

View full national poll with crosstabs here.

View the Detroit specific release and memo here

View information on the Houston specific data here.

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