In September, the Trump administration announced an end to the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, which includes protections for some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Under DACA, those who qualify and pass a background check can receive protection from deportation and a work permit. California is home to about 223,000 DACA recipients—more than one-fourth of the national total.
The administration and Congress have been negotiating a potential compromise that would preserve DACA protections for qualifying individuals. In January, the PPIC Statewide Survey found that 85% of adults and 81% of likely voters in California favor the protections offered by DACA. Recent surveys by ABC/Washington Post and CNN have found similarly high levels of support for DACA among adults nationwide. In California, support has increased slightly since September, when three-quarters of adults and likely voters were in favor of DACA protections.
In today’s politically polarized environment, it is notable that majorities of California Democrats, Republicans, and independents support the DACA program. In PPIC’s January survey, we find that while Republicans are less likely than Democrats and independents to support DACA protections, a solid majority (58%) are in favor. Indeed, DACA has a high level of support across the state’s regions and demographic groups, with at least three in four adults in favor. Results were similar in September, when strong majorities across parties and at least seven in ten across demographic and regional groups expressed support.
The high levels of support for DACA are perhaps unsurprising given Californians’ shifting attitudes toward immigrants. In PPIC’s September survey, three in four Californians (76%) said that immigrants are a benefit to the state because of their hard work and job skills—a high mark in PPIC surveys. Only 20% said immigrants are a burden because they use public services. Indeed, Californians are now far more likely to see immigrants as a benefit than they were in April 1998 when we first asked this question (46% benefit, 42% burden).
Interestingly, this shift in attitudes is not unique to California. In a June 2017 survey of adults nationwide, the Pew Research Center found that 65% of adults thought immigrants strengthened the country, while 26% felt immigrants burdened the country. This is a stark contrast to 1994, when only 31% of adults nationwide felt immigrants strengthened the country and 63% said they were a burden. As the debate on DACA and immigration policy continues, looking at changes in public attitudes on this issue can highlight areas of potential compromise for policymakers.