Repeated clashes over illegal immigration have marked the state's political races for years, but a new Los Angeles Times/USC poll found that voters hold positive views about immigrants overall and favor accommodating illegal immigrants who have held down jobs in the state.
Asked whether immigrants represented a benefit or a burden to the state, 48% of voters likely to cast ballots in November said they were a benefit, and 36% said they strongly held that view. Only 32% said immigrants overall were a burden to California because of their impact on public services, and only 22% felt that way strongly.
Separately, 59% of likely voters said that an illegal immigrant who had lived and worked in the United States for at least two years should be allowed to remain here if discovered. More than 2 in 5 voters saidthey felt strongly that such an option should be available. Only 30% of likely voters thought the illegal immigrant should be deported, and only 19% backed that option strongly.
But views varied widely by political persuasion and age.
Liberals were most supportive of immigrants legal and illegal, with 75% saying immigrants were a benefit and 81% saying that working illegal immigrants should be able to keep their jobs. Voters under 45 agreed, with 59% saying immigrants were beneficial and 68% calling for illegal immigrants to keep their jobs rather than be deported.
Among conservative likely voters, 52% felt immigrants were a burden and 25% felt they were a benefit. Conservatives were the only group that leaned more toward deportation — by a narrow 2 percentage point margin.
Voters over 65 were more split, with 41% citing immigrants as a benefit and 36% as a burden. They also favored letting illegal immigrants keep their jobs, 55% to 33%.
By far the demographic group most supportive of immigrants was Latinos. Sixty-eight percent said immigrants were a benefit, a view shared by 43% of whites. And 76% felt illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country, a sentiment shared by 56% of whites.
The poll was conducted for The Los Angeles Times and the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences from Oct. 13 to 20 by the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the Republican firm American Viewpoint. It included a random sample of 1,501 California voters, including 922 likely voters. Results for likely voters have a margin of sampling error of 3.2 points in either direction, with a larger margin for subgroups.