Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Poll: Californians favor path to citizenship for undocumented, but are 'somewhat ambivalent' on the rest

A majority of California voters would be content to let undocumented immigrants have a path to U.S. citizenship if they meet certain requirements, a new poll suggests, but the buck more or less stops there when it comes to making allowances for people who are in the country illegally.

"Somewhat ambivalent" is how the latest Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley-Field Poll describes California voters' attitudes regarding illegal immigration and related policies.

On one hand, 67 percent of those polled said they'd support a path to citizenship. On the other hand, most still oppose undocumented immigrants having the same entitlements as do legal residents, for example driver' licenses, the same discounts on tuition at public universities granted to citizens and legal residents, and the same health care and financial assistance.

They also have no strong inclination to increase the number of immigrants allowed to come legally from Latin American and Asia. How the numbers shake out: 

  • 56 percent oppose undocumented immigrants having Californai driver's licenses, vs. 40 percent in favor
  • 61 percent oppose undocumented immigrants receiving tuition discounts at the state’s public universities, vs. 33 percent in favor
  • 65 percent oppose undocumented immigrants receiving government health and financial assistance, versus 27 percent in favor
  • 45 percent favor keeping immigration from Latin America at the current level, vs. 18 percent who support increasing it and 26 who want the level reduced; 56 percent favor keeping the same level of immigration from Asia, vs. 10 who favor an increase and 19 who want it reduced

Altogether, California voters' general attitudes are not too far off the national mark; a June 2011 Gallup Poll found that 64 percent of respondents supported a path to citizenship, for example.

The driver's license issue is a divisive one, especially with pending state legislation that could allow some undocumented immigrants to receive them. A Democratic-sponsored bill that would grant driver's licenses to young people who receive deferred action, a form of temporary legal status that is part of a new federal policy, is awaiting approval from Gov. Jerry Brown. He has until Sunday to sign or veto.

And as might be expected, the poll results varied according to political and ethnic affiliation. One non-surprise from the poll results: "Chinese-Americans appear to be somewhat more likely than other voters to favor increasing the number of Asian immigrants allowed into the U.S."

The complete Field Poll results can be downloaded here.

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