Californians become increasingly tolerant toward people who are in the country illegally, although it remains tough on border security and enforcement, a new poll shows.
LOS ANGELES — In the nearly two decades since Californians voted to bar undocumented immigrants from utilizing public schools and hospitals, the state’s electorate has become increasingly tolerant toward people who are in the country illegally, although it remains tough on border security and enforcement, a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll shows.
The shift is partly explained by the growing clout of Latinos, who now make up 20 percent of California voters. But the attitudes of whites also appear to have changed.
If placed on the ballot today, a measure similar to Proposition 187 would be supported by 46 percent of voters, according to the poll, with 44 percent against — a statistical tie, given the 2.9 percent margin of error.
In 1994, by contrast, the proposition passed with 59 percent of the vote.
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The primary provisions of the measure did not survive legal challenges and were never enacted.
In another sign of the electorate’s evolving attitudes, Californians overwhelmingly back President Obama’s new program granting work permits and a two-year reprieve from deportation to some young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Respondents also favor granting driver’s licenses to the same group.
But voters’ generosity toward the undocumented apparently has limits: The poll found that most Californians want increased border enforcement and think that local police and sheriffs should have a role in apprehending suspected illegal immigrants.
The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic company, and American Viewpoint, a Republican company. Telephone interviews took place with 1,504 registered voters from Oct. 15 to Oct. 21.
Although there are no immigration-related measures on the Nov. 6 ballot, the poll results point to where California may be heading at a time when states are increasingly devising their own solutions to immigration policy changes, which have stalled in Washington, D.C.
A Times exit poll in the 1994 election found 63 percent of whites voted for the proposition. White respondents in the latest poll remain in favor, but by a narrower 51 to 41 percent ratio.
Increased contact with immigrants may have softened opinions among white voters, while the second- and third-generation offspring of Latino immigrants may adopt harder stances against newcomers, pollsters and immigration experts said.