Institute of Governmental Studies releases poll data on death penalty, bilingual education

Ethan Epstein/Senior Staff

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Two polls, which were conducted by the Institute of Governmental Studies and released in August, revealed that the majority of California voters oppose abolishing the death penalty and they prioritize English-learning classes over bilingual classes.

The death penalty poll references two measures that will appear on the November ballot, one to repeal the death penalty and one to streamline capital punishment procedures. The other poll asked voters their opinions on bilingual education for new English learners and U.S. citizens in general.

The majority of voters in all ethnic groups, except Black voters, opposed abolishing the death penalty and religious voters were more likely to support the death penalty. Seventy percent of Republicans opposed abolishing the death penalty, while Democrats supported it.

“The state should not be executing anybody,” said Matthew Lewis, a member of Cal Berkeley Democrats. “We are one of the few developed countries that still does (use the) death penalty.”

Proposition 66, also on the November ballot, aims to streamline the appeals process for the death penalty. According to Franklin Zimring, a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Law, the appeals process takes so long that no one has been executed in more than 10 years.

“Executions are the third leading cause of death on death row (in California),” Zimring said, the first two being natural causes and suicide.

But Zimring says that if Proposition 66 were to pass, it would mean such a large change in the death penalty procedures that the state would be tied up in litigation for years, leading to even more delays in executions.

Proposition 58 on the November ballot will support repealing most of Proposition 227, which prohibited non-English languages from being used in public education instruction. The poll asked general questions about support for bilingual education.

Forty-four percent of respondents supported a transitional program from the student’s native language to English, 37 percent supported an English-only approach and 14 percent of respondents supported allowing dual language programs through high school.

Ethan Rarick, the associate director of Institute of Governmental Studies, said the institute has conducted polls on bilingualism for many years and has learned that Californians prioritize both learning English and speaking other languages.

Patricia Baquedano-López, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Education at Berkeley, says a lot of state money is spent on teaching high school and college students languages they knew as children.

We have been erasing other languages from the experiences of students during their early years,” Baquedano-López said.

Baquedano-López said that students who speak multiple languages will have a fuller college experience and be able to participate more quickly into programs using their languages, such as education abroad.  Baquedano-López added that language immersion would also help students coming from English-only families learn a second language at a young age.

“English is important, it’s a good language for the global world,” Baquedano-López said. “But so is Cantonese, Spanish and Mandarin.”

Mira Chaplin covers research and ideas. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @mirachaplin.