Californians are more likely to see immigrants as positive for American society compared to the U.S. as a whole, according to a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll conducted by SurveyMonkey.
Fifty-nine percent of California voters — compared with 49 percent of U.S. voters — reported that immigrants strengthen society, while 35 percent of California voters and 43 percent of U.S. voters said they weaken it.
In California, despite the positive feelings for immigrants, 41 percent of voters believe that immigrants make things harder for them financially, while 10 percent say immigrants make things easier and 39 percent saying they make no difference.
It’s a testament to California voters that they understand that the long-term positive contributions that immigrants can provide are worth the short-term financial challenges that may arise.
“It’s not surprising that Californians are much more positive about the benefits of immigration than voters nationally, but even our state’s residents recognize that immigration can present economic challenges as well,” said Dan Schnur, director of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. “It’s a testament to California voters that they understand that the long-term positive contributions that immigrants can provide are worth the short-term financial challenges that may arise.”
Other findings from the poll show that the majority of California voters – 59 percent – report that unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy is a major problem in the United States. Thirty-nine percent cited over-regulation of the free market as a bigger issue in the country. However, 44 percent of California voters said that the government gets in the way of their opportunities while 39 percent said that Washington doesn’t make a difference either way.
“Voters of both parties are increasingly worried about the impact of income inequality, but they don’t seem to be willing to trust their government to fix the problem without creating other problems,” Schnur said. “The challenge for our presidential candidates will be to overcome these broader doubts with policy proposals for economic growth that voters can trust.”
Youth and minority populations agree
Youth and minority populations echo the sentiment of the majority of California voters that inequity within the economic system is a major issue. Seventy-four percent of 18-29 year olds agreed that it is a bigger issue than over-regulation of the market, as well as black (70 percent), Asian (68 percent) and Hispanic (62 percent) voters in California. Fifty-four percent of white voters also agree.
Voter opinions on immigration vary widely based on partisan affiliation. Fifty-three percent of California Republicans and 64 percent of U.S. Republicans believe that immigrants mainly weaken society, while 75 percent of California Democrats and 66 percent of U.S. Democrats believe immigrants mainly strengthen society. Nationally, 29 percent of Republicans think immigrants strengthen society.
The divergence of opinions is further evidenced when broken out by candidate support. Eighty-one percent of Hillary Clinton supporters and 80 percent of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters in California believe that immigrants bolster society. Nationally, 66 percent of Clinton supporters and 85 percent of Sanders supporters agree with the statement.
Meanwhile, a large majority of Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz supporters in California – 73 percent and 75 percent respectively – believe that immigrants mainly weaken American society. Sixty-one percent of Ben Carson supporters agree, but 53 percent of Sen. Marco Rubio supporters in California believe that immigrants actually improve society. Nationally, 82 percent of Trump supporters believe immigrants mainly weaken society, with 73 percent of Cruz supporters, 56 percent of Carson supporters and 45 percent of Rubio supporters in agreement.
California voters are generally more hopeful about cultural diversity while national voters are divided. In the Golden State, 56 percent of voters said that they are hopeful about the changes in cultural diversity in the country over the past few years while 41 percent report that they are worried. Nationally, 50 percent of voters report feeling worried about diversity compared with 47 percent who said they are hopeful.
Few Californians, only 13 percent said they think the federal government increases opportunities for them. Responses divide along party lines in the state: 68 percent of Republicans and 29 percent of Democrats report that the government gets in the way of opportunity, while 20 percent of Democrats and 8 percent of Republicans believe the government increases opportunity.
Nationally, voters are more likely to feel that the government gets in the way of opportunity, with 52 percent agreeing with the statement.
Trump and Carson lead Republicans, Clinton dominates Democratic field
In the Republican primary race, Trump and Carson continue to lead the field, with 20 percent of California voters saying they would vote for Trump and 19 percent for Carson if the election were held today. Fourteen percent of Californians say they favor Rubio, followed by 11 percent for Cruz, 6 percent for Carly Fiorina and 4 percent for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
In the Democratic field, Clinton holds a sizable lead, with 48 percent of California voters vs. 32 percent who favor Sanders.
The USC Dornsife/LA Times SurveyMonkey Poll survey was conducted Oct. 29-Nov. 3 among 2,009 registered voters in California and an additional national sample of 3,035 registered voters in the United States. Error estimates for this survey are +/- 3 percentage points for California registered voters and +/- 2.5 percentage points for registered voters in the United States.
Respondents for this non-probability survey were selected using an algorithm from among the 3 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Data for the survey — which also included interviews with adults not registered to vote — have been weighted for gender, age, race, education, and region using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic compositions of California and the United States.