New Poll Shows ‘Sea Change’ in Californians’ Attitudes Toward Illegal Immigration

Ken McLaughlin, Mercury News (San Jose), April 6, 2010

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The survey of 1,515 registered voters showed that 67 percent of Californians support a two-pronged approach to solving the illegal immigration problem: implementing stronger enforcement at the border while setting up a legalization path for undocumented immigrants who admit they broke the law, perform community service, learn English and pay fines and back taxes.

Seventy percent favor stricter border controls and a temporary worker program that does not grant illegal immigrants citizenship and requires them to return to their homeland. But only 45 percent favor denying the undocumented an education and taxpayer-funded health and social services.

Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, said the poll–sponsored by the Los Angeles Times and USC’s College of Letters, Arts and Sciences–showed there was a “sea change” in Californians’ attitudes toward illegal immigration since 1994. That’s when 59 percent of the state’s voters cast a ballot in favor of Proposition 187, the white-hot measure aimed at denying services to illegal immigrants. The proposition was later ruled unconstitutional by federal courts.

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One big reason for the change: Younger voters are less likely to favor cutting off services to the undocumented, Schnur said. In addition, the number of Latino voters has substantially increased since 1994.

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But Yeh Ling-Ling, executive director of the Orinda-based Alliance for a Sustainable USA, a group that wants to see more restrictions on immigration, said the poll’s results are deceptive and will turn around once Californians begin paying attention to the renewed debate in Congress, expected later this year.

“Nobody ever told the people surveyed that amnesty will lead to an explosion of both legal and illegal immigration as newly naturalized citizens bring in their extended families,” she said.

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Other results included:

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* Belying the “common wisdom” that most Republican primary voters hunger for a red-meat conservative candidate, 44 percent of likely GOP voters said they preferred a “centrist”; 45 percent preferred a “strong conservative.” The difference is statistically insignificant.

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