Californians are split over an Arizona law that seeks to crack down on illegal immigration, with 49 percent in support of the law and 45 percent opposed, according to a new independent survey by the Field Poll. The division falls sharply along party and ethnic lines.
Democrats oppose the Arizona law by a margin of 62-33, while Republicans support it, 77-17. Independent voters oppose the law by a margin of 49-46.
Majorities of white, African-American and Asian-American voters all approve of the law. Latinos oppose it. Fifty-eight percent of white voters, 53 percent of African-Americans, and 50 percent of Asian-Americans back the law. But 71 percent of Latino voters oppose it.
The rule requires immigrants to carry documentation and allows police to ask for proof of legal residency when they stop someone. Supporters say the law gives Arizona the ability to police a problem that the federal government has allowed to grow with lax border enforcement. Opponents say it will lead to discrimination and allow police to use ethnic profiling to harass Latinos on the street.
Both candidates for governor of California — Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman — say they oppose the law. But Whitman’s supporters are far more likely to favor the law than Brown’s, the poll found.
The poll also looked at Californians’ attitudes toward illegal immigration generally. In some cases, it found that those opinions had moderated since 1994 when voters passed Proposition 187, which sought to eliminate education and health care for immigrants who were here without proper documentation. That law was later struck down by the courts.
But the poll found that, amid the ongoing economic downturn, attitudes toward illegal immigration are hardening again.
Overall, 34 percent of Californians said that illegal immigration has a positive effect on the state, with 56 percent saying the effect was unfavorable. That compares to 26 percent who thought the effect was positive in 1994, and 36 percent in 2006.
The percentage of Californians who think that undocumented immigrants are taking jobs away from legal residents is the same today as it was in 1994: 34 percent. Although a large majority (58 percent) say undocumented immigrants work at jobs that no one else wants, that number is lower today than it was in 2006, when economic times were better. Then, 65 percent said no one else wanted the jobs that undocumented workers do.
To see the entire poll, click here.