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THE TIMES POLL : Most Call Prop. 187 Good, Want It Implemented Now

March 13, 1995|PAUL FELDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A narrow majority of state residents believes that the passage of Proposition 187 last November was a good thing, and slightly more than half feel the controversial initiative should be implemented immediately rather than delayed by the courts, according to a new Los Angeles Times Poll.

The frustration is most palpable among supporters of the initiative. Although the most frequently cited reason for approving the initiative in pre-election polls was to send a message to government officials about illegal immigration, an overwhelming 93% of the measure's backers now say it is necessary to implement Proposition 187.

The survey, the first since the election to gauge a cross-section of California adults on this issue, also shows that one in five residents believes that voter approval of the divisive ballot measure has increased discrimination against Latinos, Asians or other immigrant groups.

Findings in the poll, conducted March 4 through March 9, come as an important court hearing on the measure's fate looms today in a Los Angeles federal courtroom.

U.S. District Judge Mariana R. Pfaelzer, who has temporarily blocked most of the initiative's key provisions, is due to hear arguments from state attorneys asking that she either dismiss four anti-187 lawsuits before her or abstain from taking further action until state courts deal first with the initiative's legality.

In prohibiting enforcement of the initiative in December, Pfaelzer said she took into account the 59%-41% margin by which voters approved it, but added that the measure nonetheless raised serious constitutional and practical questions.

If Pfaelzer does not yield, she is likely to confirm a Sept. 6 date for a full-blown trial on the proposition, aimed at barring illegal immigrants from public education, non-emergency health care and social services and requiring administrators to report suspects to state and federal authorities.

Across California, eight state and federal lawsuits have been filed against Proposition 187, and in San Francisco Superior Court, Judge Stuart R. Pollak has also issued a preliminary injunction preventing state officials from enforcing provisions barring illegal immigrants from public schools and state universities.

The Times Poll shows that regardless of the initial success of these lawsuits, more than half of the 1,390 Californians surveyed believe that delays to test the measure's legality in court are inappropriate. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

"The voters voted for it and if that's what people want, that's what should be done," said a 31-year-old electronics technician of Latino heritage from San Jose, who voted against the initiative. "We shouldn't have to wait for the courts to do their work."

Among all those polled, the response was 52% to 38% in favor of immediate implementation. Among whites, it was 57% to 33%; among blacks, 58% to 36%; and among Asians, 46% to 42%. Latinos were the only major ethnic block strongly favoring delay--54% to 35%. Even among those who voted against the initiative, 30% said it should have been implemented immediately.

The poll, which sampled non-voters and non-citizens as well as the roughly one-third of adults who actually cast ballots, made clear that Proposition 187 continues to divide California.

By 53% to 40%, poll respondents called it a good thing rather than a bad thing that the initiative was approved. The margin, slightly smaller than the one at the election booth, was particularly wide among white residents, 60% to 34%, registered independents, 57% to 37% and registered Republicans, 78% to 19%.

Blacks said the initiative was a good thing, 52% to 39%, as did Asians by a narrow 49% to 46%.

Latinos, on the other hand, said the measure was a bad thing, 62% to 30%. So did registered Democrats, 53% to 41%; people from 18 to 29 years old, 50% to 43%; and college graduates, 51% to 46%.

A major split was also evident between different sections of the state. In the Los Angeles area, passage of Proposition 187 was declared a good thing, 51% to 43%. But in the Bay Area, poll respondents termed approval a bad thing, 57% to 39%.

'It's fascinating that the results on whether Proposition 187 was a good thing ended up very close to the same margin as the vote last November, considering that this was a poll of all adults and not just those who voted," said Times Poll Director John Brennan.

On the question of discrimination, 75% of poll respondents said the measure's passage has resulted in no discernible increases in their communities. Only 9% reported a major increase.

Latinos, however, were less sanguine, with 57% reporting no increase in discrimination. Among the 41% of Latinos who said they have noticed more prejudice, 16% termed it a major increase.

Among those who said they have personally felt the sting of discrimination was Fresno native Vicky Montes, 29, who said Proposition 187 seems to have made people who are prejudiced "feel free to say and do what they want."

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