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THE TIMES POLL : Anti-Illegal Immigration Prop. 187 Keeps 2-to-1 Edge

October 15, 1994|PAUL FELDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With California voters increasingly convinced that illegal immigration is one of the major problems facing the state, Proposition 187, the emotionally divisive anti-illegal immigration initiative, continues to hold a strong lead in the Los Angeles Times Poll.

Less than a month before the election, the get-tough measure is favored by a margin of 59% to 33% among likely voters--a 26-point margin. Among all registered voters, the split is 61% to 32%.

The margin was 33 points among likely voters in mid-September, when the Times Poll reported a 62% to 29% lead. Registered voters were split by a similar margin.

With the campaign heating up, interest in Proposition 187 is now as high as it is for the governor's race between Democratic challenger Kathleen Brown and Republican incumbent Pete Wilson, whose opposition to illegal immigration is a hallmark of his reelection bid.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday October 18, 1994 Home Edition Part A Page 3 Column 4 Metro Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Prop. 187--A headline in Saturday editions of The Times incorrectly described the margin by which Proposition 187 leads in the latest Times poll. Among likely voters, the measure is favored by 59% and opposed by 33%--less than a 2-1 margin.

Moreover, nearly twice as many registered voters said Proposition 187 would motivate them to cast ballots as would the U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Republican Rep. Mike Huffington.

Despite the efforts of a wide-scale coalition of mainstream education, health and law enforcement organizations to defeat the measure, Proposition 187 continues to win majority support among Democrats as well as Republicans, and voters of both sexes and all age groups and income levels.

Although some of the staunchest opposition to the measure has come from Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and organized labor leaders, poll results suggest that they have had limited influence. The initiative is favored 56% to 37% among Catholic voters and 55% to 34% among union members.

The Times Poll found that arguments against the measure seemed to have little impact on voter attitudes. Support for Proposition 187 remained steady after three pro and three con arguments were read to poll respondents. If anything, pro-187 arguments appeared to sway voters more than such anti-187 arguments as the possibility of a public health hazard because illegal immigrants would be denied immunizations against communicable diseases.

"Many people have made up their minds," said Assistant Times Poll Director Susan Pinkus.

Pinkus cautioned that about one-third of voters remain unfamiliar with the details of Proposition 187--which would terminate most government services to illegal immigrants and require local health, education and law enforcement officials to turn in the names of suspected illegal immigrants to federal authorities. Among likely voters who were familiar with Proposition 187, the margin of support is 45% to 25%.

A second high-profile, send-a-message measure, the "three strikes" crime initiative, also continues to draw strong support in the Times Poll. Proposition 184, which calls for prison terms of 25 years to life for third-time felony offenders, is favored by a 58%-32% margin among likely voters.

But Proposition 186, which calls for a state-run health system, has failed to find a constituency. More than 50% of likely voters are unfamiliar with the single-payer health initiative when just read the ballot label. When they were read a synopsis, the split against it was 64% to 25%.

The closest race among the major November initiatives involves Proposition 188, the tobacco industry-backed measure to establish statewide regulations on smoking restrictions. Half of likely voters said they were familiar with the measure and those voters split 3 to 2 against Proposition 188.

After being read an explanation summarized from the ballot pamphlet mailed to all California voters, likely voters favored it by a 49% to 43% margin.

The summary read to poll respondents, like the title and summary in the state's ballot pamphlet, does not make clear that one of the prime backers of the initiative is tobacco giant Philip Morris. Political analysts believe that voters would be more likely to reject the measure, which would repeal local no-smoking laws, if they knew of its backing from the tobacco industry.

The Times Poll, conducted by telephone Oct. 8 through Tuesday, questioned 1,232 registered voters, 821 of whom are considered to be likely to vote Nov. 8. The poll's margin of sampling error for registered voters is 3 percentage points in either direction. For likely voters it is 4 points in either direction. Margins of error for smaller subgroups of voters may be larger.

The poll's results make clear that illegal immigration, which has begun receiving widespread attention in news stories, editorials and in TV ads touting Wilson's reelection bid, is a hot topic among Californians.

Among all registered voters, more people cited illegal immigration than either education or the economy as the state's most pressing issue. Only crime and unemployment ranked higher.

In a Times Poll last month, crime also was cited as the state's most important problem. But unemployment, the economy, education and immigration were all clustered together far behind.

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