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Californians and Immigration

Dean Bonner March 5, 2015

While the courts, and perhaps Congress, decide the future of President Obama’s actions on immigration, the most recent PPIC Statewide Survey shows how Californians view the issue. Most Californians (69%) supported the president’s executive order protecting as many as 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation; while 30 percent were opposed. Californians are much more likely to support executive action on immigration than adults nationwide (52% support, 44% oppose).

Across California’s political, regional, and demographic groups, support falls short of a majority only among Republicans (35%). By comparison, most Democrats (83%) and independents (63%) support the president’s actions.

Looking more closely at the January survey findings, we see results consistent with California’s reputation as a blue state. More than 60 percent of Californians across regions and gender, age, education, and income groups support the administrative action on immigration. Considering that Latinos are by far the largest group affected by the executive order, it’s not surprising that nearly all Latinos (89%) support presidential action on immigration; however, 55 percent of whites also voice support.

Support for the president’s action is consistent with favorable opinions on recent reform proposals that have been debated but not enacted by Congress. The Senate passed a plan in 2013 that would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants if they met certain requirements. Our September 2014 survey showed that a strong majority—82 percent—including more than 55 percent across parties supported this plan. In fact, more than 65 percent across regional, age, education, income, and racial/ethnic groups were in support.

Beneath Californians’ support of both the president’s executive action and the Senate’s comprehensive immigration plan is a generally favorable view of immigrants. In our January survey, a majority of Californians (63%)—as they have in past surveys dating back to 2000—viewed immigrants as a benefit to California because of their hard work and job skills; 32 percent viewed them as a burden because they use public services. Most Californians across political, regional, and demographic groups view immigrants as a benefit—Republicans (27%) and adults age 55 and older (49%) are the exceptions.

Our survey results help explain why California hasn’t waited for Congress to act on immigration reform. The state has passed a number of laws in the last two years that pave the way for undocumented immigrants to get student loans and financial aid, professional licenses, and, most recently, driver’s licenses. Home to the largest share of immigrants in the nation, California has the most at stake in immigration debate and has consistent views on it.

News and analysis of California policy issues from PPIC

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