Three-quarters of California voters support granting citizenship to people who came to the country illegally as children and who have since completed a certain amount of education or U.S. military service, according to the largest statewide poll of California voters. Twenty percent oppose such a policy.
The post-election USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll, conducted Nov. 3-14, surveyed 1,689 registered voters in California and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 points for the overall sample. The November survey also included significant oversamples of Latino and Asian American voters.
Across party registration, voters overwhelmingly support granting citizenship to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and have since served in the military for at least two years or graduated from a U.S. high school or four-year college, a proposal similar to the DREAM Act.
Eighty-five percent of Democratic voters, 68 percent of Republican voters and 74 percent of voters registered “decline to state” support, a policy resembling the DREAM Act, which last appeared before the U.S. Senate in September 2010 as an amendment to a defense authorization bill.
By race, Latino voters and black voters in California were the most likely to favor a policy resembling the DREAM Act — with 84 percent support in each group — and this support was shared by 71 percent of Asian-American voters and 75 percent of white voters. Along gender lines, the policy has support from 75 percent of men and 77 percent of women who are registered voters.
“With such high levels of support for paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the Republican party is facing a test on whether it can stay relevant in California. Statewide Republican candidates in the midterm elections, in particular Meg Whitman, were certainly hurt by their stances on immigration, particularly amongst Latinos,” said Manuel Pastor, professor of American studies and ethnicity at USC College. “It’ll be interesting to see whether the California Congressional Republicans reflect California voters on the DREAM Act.”
As for other proposed policies to handle immigration in California, a majority of California’s voters support the possibility of giving illegal immigrants a chance to remain in the country permanently if they “fulfill certain obligations, such as paying a fine.” Fifty-six percent of registered voters support granting legal status with the possibility of citizenship to undocumented immigrants, including 41 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Democrats. Thirty-seven percent of registered voters oppose a path to citizenship.
Latino voters support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants by a margin of 77 to 19, while white voters and Asian-American voters support it by smaller margins: 51-42 for white voters and 49-41 for Asian-American voters.
On the issue of whether to deny undocumented immigrants taxpayer-supported social services, such as public education and emergency room treatment, white voters and Asian-American voters were much more evenly divided than Latino voters. White voters were split 47-47 and Asian Americans were split 48-43, with slightly more Asian Americans in favor of denying social services to undocumented immigrants than opposed. A majority of Latino voters — 58 percent — opposed withholding services, and 35 percent support.
“Candidates running in California are increasingly going to have to pay attention to Asian-American voters and not just because the percentage of California’s registered voters who are Asian American is growing every year,” said Jane Junn, research director of the USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll and professor of political science at USC College. “Asian Americans are disproportionately foreign-born and many do not yet have entrenched political leanings. Their beliefs cut across party lines.”
Overall, 49 percent of all registered voters oppose denying social services and 44 percent support it. Fifty-seven percent of Republican voters support denying services, compared to 32 percent of Democratic voters and 42 percent of decline-to-state voters.
Voters were tough on employers who hire illegal immigrants. Sixty-six percent of registered voters said employers who hire illegal immigrants should be fined, including 72 percent of white voters and 68 percent of Asian-American voters. Fifty-six percent of Latino voters opposed a policy that would fine employers who hire illegal immigrants.
In the 2010 midterm election, both U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and Governor-elect Jerry Brown lost among white voters, according to the USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll.
Democratic candidate Brown won 46 percent of the white vote, and Republican candidate Whitman won 49 percent.
But Brown had a significant edge among Latino voters and Asian-American voters, two fast-growing groups that together currently comprise 25 percent of California’s registered voters. Eighty percent of Latino voters voted for Brown, compared to 15 percent for Whitman.
Among Asian-American voters, 61 percent voted for Brown and 37 percent for Whitman, who advertised on television in Mandarin and Cantonese in the closing weeks of the campaign.
“In a state that is disproportionally immigrant, anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric is likely to have played a role in turning voters against Republican candidates,” said Dan Ichinose, director of the Demographic Research Project at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. “These data show that immigrant voters played a significant role in California’s rejection of the national trend toward conservatism.”
In the race for U.S. Senate, incumbent Boxer lost the white vote to Republican candidate Carly Fiorina, 50-43. Boxer won among Latinos, 78-18, and among Asian Americans, 60-34.
Despite winning re-election, Boxer continues to have a negative favorability rating among California voters. More voters have an unfavorable view of Boxer than have a favorable view, 49-44.
President Barack Obama continues to enjoy higher popularity in California than in the country as a whole. More than 60 percent of all registered voters in California have a favorable view of Obama, including 79 percent favorable view among Latino voters and 69 percent favorable view among Asian-American voters.
One of the largest and most representative surveys of Asian-American voters ever done in California, the oversample of 402 Asian-American voters was supported by a grant to USC College from the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and conducted in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese and Tagalog. The bilingual oversample of 420 Latino voters was conducted on behalf of the USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll by Latino Decisions and supported by a grant to USC College from the California Community Foundation.
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