Poll: Debate May Heighten Racism

Ronald J. Hansen and Sean Holstege, Arizona Republic (Phoenix), August 2, 2010

Regardless of how Arizona’s new immigration law eventually fares in court, many Arizonans say the heated debate it has generated exposes a deeper problem with racial discrimination here, an Arizona Republic poll indicates.

Those views were reflected in the recent protests surrounding preparations to enforce Senate Bill 1070 and a federal judge’s ruling on Wednesday that put key parts of the law on hold.

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In The Republic’s telephone poll of 616 adults, conducted statewide between June 30 and July 12, nearly half of respondents–48 percent–said Latinos are more likely to be discriminated against compared with non-Latinos than they were six months ago. More than a third of respondents disagreed. The rest did not know or had no opinion.

Nearly half of Arizonans also believe the immigration debate has revealed racial problems here and that Latinos are more likely to have their legal status questioned than they were at the start of the year, the poll indicates.

However, more people than not, 42 percent to 36 percent, don’t believe the immigration debate reflects a fear that ethnic minorities will become the majority.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.89 percentage points.

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In several of the poll’s questions, the large share of Hispanics who were in agreement swung the overall response to one of perception that discrimination is a problem.

A quarter of respondents to The Republic’s poll, conducted by WestGroup Research, were Hispanic, in line with their share of Arizona’s population, based on Census Bureau estimates.

But even among non-Hispanics, 39 percent of Arizonans said they felt Latinos were more likely to face discrimination than non-Latinos; 43 percent disagreed.

Various groups differed on responses, however. More Democrats than Republicans, and more women than men, perceive problems with discrimination.

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Among the poll’s findings:

* Nearly half, 46 percent, of Arizona adults agreed that the immigration debate has “exposed a deeper sense of racism in our community.” Thirty-eight percent disagreed. Non-Hispanics disagreed slightly, but three-fourths of Hispanics agreed, swinging the overall answer.

* Non-Hispanics were nearly evenly divided about whether people are more likely now to wonder about the legal status of those who look Latino than they were six months ago. By comparison, 72 percent of Hispanics agreed.

* Forty-five percent said immigration has provided an overall positive community impact by adding cultural diversity, while 26 percent disagreed. Supporters of SB 1070 were evenly divided, but 64 percent of opponents agreed.

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