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Are There Winners and Losers? Race, Ethnicity, and California’s Initiative Process

Summary

California’s reliance on direct democracy has raised concerns about the role of race and ethnicity in the initiative process.Critics point to initiatives on restricting bilingual education, ending affirmative action, and cutting services to illegal immigrants as a sign that the white electoral majority is using direct democracy to target the state’s growing nonwhite population. This study analyzes voting patterns over the last 20 years to determine how often voters from each racial and ethnic group end up on the winning side of the initiative vote. It also measures the degree to which the interests of white and nonwhite voters differed and the level of unity within each group. The study concludes that nonwhite voters, especially Latinos, fared poorly compared to whites only when race or ethnicity itself was an important part of an initiative.
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