Only 19% of California voters in a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll said those in the country illegally should be required to leave the United States.
About two-thirds of survey respondents said illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay with eventual citizenship rights. An additional 10% said they should be permitted to remain in this country to work but should not be allowed to apply for citizenship.
At a time when the push for immigration reform has gained momentum in Washington, more than two-thirds of California voters say the current immigration system isn't working and nearly three-quarters favor President Obama's plan to change it, the poll found.
The state's voters have long held more moderate views on immigration than voters in other parts of the country, in part because of California's burgeoning Latino population. But the poll results illustrated that, even here, views about illegal immigrants have changed notably.
In 2010, when pollsters asked about the effect of illegal immigrants on the California economy, 48% of respondents said their effect was negative and 40% said it was positive. In the latest survey, only 36% said their impact was negative, and 53% said it was positive, a shift that spanned all age groups and could not be explained simply by the surging population of Latinos in the state.
Part of what appears to be driving that change are the personal connections that many California voters have formed with illegal immigrants. Latinos were more likely than whites to know one — a majority of Latinos described that person as either a friend or family member — and among all voters who knew any, only 8% said illegal immigrants should be forced to leave the country.
The poll, which interviewed 1,501 registered voters by telephone, was conducted March 11-17 for the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times. The survey has an overall margin of error of 2.9 percentage points, with a higher margin of error for subgroups.
Read Maeve Reston's entire poll story here.
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