A new poll shows that a majority of California’s registered voters oppose the state’s DREAM Act despite significant political support for the bill, which was signed into law in October.
Fifty-five percent of the state’s voters oppose the act, compared to the 40 percent of voters who support it, according to the poll conducted by the University of Southern California’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times. The poll also reveals a deep racial divide between white respondents, who oppose the act by a large majority, and Latino respondents, who overwhelmingly support it.
The poll, which surveyed 1,500 registered voters, found that 79 percent of Latino respondents support the act, but 66 percent of white respondents oppose it. Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, said the divide was unusual.
“You don’t see divides along racial lines like this in most studies,” Schnur said.
Assemblymember Tim Donnelly — currently spearheading an effort to repeal the act via a 2012 ballot measure — said he was not surprised by the results of the poll, although he said he believed them to be skewed. He said over half of those who came to a petition-signing event supporting his effort were Hispanic.
“People are upset about (the act), and they’re upset about it for a variety of reasons,” Donnelly said. “I’ve never seen people so personalize an issue in all my time in office.”
Varying viewpoints on the issue of undocumented students receiving state financial aid help explain the significant racial divide between those who support and oppose the bill, according to Schnur.
“My best guess is that most of those voters who oppose the bill were doing so for economic rather than ethnic or race-based reasons,” Schnur said. “Among Latino voters, this issue is very personal. They’re much more likely to know someone (affected by the bill).”
Jessica Lopez, an undocumented student at UC Berkeley and co-chair of RISE — a campus group seeking to promote education among undocumented students — is one of those people. She said the racial divide is a result of a white majority unconcerned with educating immigrant children in California — immigrant children she said will eventually contribute to the state’s economy and prosperity.
“The Latino community who understands that this population is here because of very real, life-threatening concerns in other parts of the world is for the education of the youth,” she said. “Of course the majority opposes the DREAM Act. It benefits the minorities … that also contribute to the state of California but are not recognized for their contributions.”
Over 70 advocacy and public interest groups supported the act on the state Senate floor while only three opposed it, according to an Aug. 30 analysis of the act, which passed through the State Assembly with a 48 to 27 vote in September and was signed into law in October. Schnur said the disparity between political and public support for the act is a result of the strength of advocacy from supporters.
“(A bill’s) chances for success are … based on the intensity of support,” he said. “The supporters were much more motivated towards passage than its opponents were against it.”
But Rigo Avelar, Sacramento regional coordinator for Stop AB 131 — a group dedicated to overturning the act — said he thinks public opposition to the bill will be enough to get the repeal on the ballot next year.
“It’s gonna be a slam dunk to get this overturned,” he said. “The voters are just gonna say ‘no way.’”