Clear majorities of Californians across the ideological spectrum support measures to reduce violence and overhaul the U.S. immigration system, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.
Congress has tackled immigration with a renewed sense of urgency this year, and California voters agree with the premise that the current laws are in need of overhaul: 67 percent of respondents to the poll said the current system is not working.
Nearly three-quarters of California voters backed President Barack Obama's framework, which includes tightened border security, tougher restrictions to ensure employers hire legal workers and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The poll found strong support when it broke those components into separate questions -- 75 percent of voters backed stricter employment verification, a figure that rose to over 80 percent for border security and a route to citizenship.
While registered Republicans were less likely to support those proposals, they were more receptive than in past surveys. A 45-percent plurality of Republicans backed the citizenship option, outstripping the third who favored deportation.
"You see the Republican party, at least in California moving away from a deportation mentality," David Kanevsky of the research firm American Viewpoint said in a conference call with reporters.
Kanevsky pointed out that Republican support dropped when immigration reform was linked explicitly to Obama rather than presented as a generic proposal, suggesting that a light fingerprint could help the president steer immigration reform through a divided Congress.
The poll data suggested that attitudes towards immigration are shifting rapidly, said Drew Lieberman, vice president of the liberal-leaning consulting firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. He noted that a majority of Californians said illegal immigrants had an overall positive impact on the state, a dramatic reversal from a few years ago that far outpaced the growth in the state's Latino population. One underlying explanation, Lieberman said, was a 37 percent net shift towards a positive view among elderly Californians.
Both Congress and the California Legislature have been working on gun control, another issue with broad acceptance in California. The poll found strong support for requiring identification to buy ammunition, requiring all gun owners to be registered and licensed, instituting a national assault weapons ban (a prohibition on guns defined as assault weapons already exists in California), taxing ammunition, and banning high-volume ammo clips. It bears noting that California has lower gun ownership rates than the nation.
Voters also weighed in on school safety measures, which has drawn more attention since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. A clear majority backed allowing schools to hire armed security personnel. But voters decisively rejected the idea of arming teachers and other school staff, something a bill by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, would allow.
While voters as a whole backed Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to overhaul school funding by doing away with mandated funding programs and direct more funding to low-income schools, support for the measure tended to break down along socioeconomic lines.
"You've got a clear case here of 'what's in it for me?'" Lieberman said.
PHOTO CREDIT: This March 3 file photo shows handguns displayed in Sandy, Utah. Associated Press/Rick Bowmer