Assessing the USC/LA Times Poll

While Calitics was away enjoying the long weekend here in our Golden State, the latest USC/LA Times poll was released. It contains lots of good information, and now that it’s been out for a couple of days, we can drill down to see what it reveals, instead of just reporting on the toplines.

Don’t get me wrong, the toplines are fascinating. USC/LAT reports Whitman has rebuilt her lead over Poizner (53-29) and that Fiorina has jumped out to a big lead of her own (Fiorina 38, Campbell 23, DeVore 16). Significantly, a lot of Fiorina’s support is recent, suggesting a momentum shift to her and away from Campbell. DeVore’s recent rise further suggests Campbell is doomed, and is left to plead for donations.

The fall matchups are also interesting. Brown has a narrow lead over likely opponent Whitman (44-38) and Boxer has the same lead over Fiorina, 44-38.

But here’s where drilling down into the poll numbers starts to pay off. 54% of voters want a US Senator who will support Obama, whereas only 35% want a Senator who will oppose him. DTS voters are +27 when it comes to “Senator who supports Obama.”

There’s been some discussion of whether Boxer is helped by Obama coming to CA to campaign for her. This poll, along with Obama’s steady approval rating, indicates that Boxer should have Obama here as often as possible. Boxer’s path to re-election is through being Obama’s right-hand woman between now and November. Given the strong OFA presence here in California, left over from 2008, it seems all the more important that Obama and Boxer be a prominent political partnership over the next few months. If so, Carly Fiorina – with her endorsement from Sarah Palin – is toast.

Similarly, DTS voters indicate a strong preference for Jerry Brown over Meg Whitman, further fueling the widely accepted notion that most of California’s DTS voters are Democrats in disguise. 48% of DTS voters back Brown, compared to just 30% backing Whitman. Jerry Brown appeals very well to people who aren’t affiliated with any political party, and appears to have gotten a boost from the bloody battle between Whitman and Poizner.

The USC/LAT poll looked at some issues, such as Prop 14 (depressingly likely to pass) and marijuana legalization (voters are split, as other polls have shown). But where it gets really interesting is on immigration. More over the flip.

A few days back, wu ming linked to an Al Giordano post assessing the huge generational divides in California, Arizona, and several other states where immigration has been a big issue. Based off of a Brookings Institution study, Giordano noted huge generation gaps exist in CA and AZ, with over-65 residents being overwhelmingly white, and under-18 residents being overwhelmingly diverse.

The study indicates that in states like CA and AZ, immigration politics are a fight between an older generation conditioned to think of America as being primarily for whites, and a younger generation conditioned to think America belongs to everyone, regardless of skin tone or spoken language.

The USC/LAT poll found the same thing. White Californians support the Arizona immigration law 58-35, while Latinos oppose it 71-24. However, support increases as you go up the age spectrum. Voters under 30 are the only group to oppose the AZ law – and they do so by huge margins (58% opposed, 39% in favor). Voters 45-64 support it by a 14-point margin, and voters over 65 support it by a 23-point margin.

The LAT article that accompanied the poll illustrated the point, if imperfectly:

Gina Bonecutter, 39, a Republican and fervent supporter of the Arizona measure, said she was frustrated by what she sees as unwillingness by recent immigrants to acclimate to American culture. The Laguna Hills mother and part-time educational therapist said large numbers of illegal immigrants are hurting public schools, one of the reasons she placed her four children in private school.

“What I’m seeing today is immigrants coming here, wanting us to become like Mexico, instead of wanting to become American,” she said. “That’s never going to work.”

These racist attitudes, sadly common among whites in Orange County, contrast with us younger folks:

On the other side of the issue, Daisy Vidal, 23, of Banning said Arizona’s law will lead to racial profiling and she would never vote for a politician who supported it. A registered Democrat, Vidal is a first-generation American, born after her family immigrated to the United States legally in the mid-1980s.

“There should be some type of pathway to citizenship,” said the Cal State San Bernardino student. “This whole country was started by immigrants.”

Vidal is absolutely right. And yet the article limits itself by going to a first-generation immigrant for the “youth” perspective. Don’t get me wrong, I think such voices absolutely deserve to get heard in California, as they’re not nearly heard often enough. But you can talk to other voters age 30 and under – like a 4th generation white Californian, born and raised in Orange County (me) – and hear exactly the same sentiment.

Younger Californians, regardless of background, share in common an upbringing in an era where the California Dream was not defined as being primarily for whites. For voters over 65, they were raised in an era where it was inconceivable that nonwhites could ever share in that dream. For voters over 45, they were raised in an era where nonwhites could share in that dream, but only if there was enough to go around after whites got theirs first. Some of those voters – Boomers – rejected that framing and embraced the Civil Rights Movement, but obviously many others did not. Voters between 30 and 45 are increasingly torn between identifying with Millennial California – open to all – and the older notion of a white California.

These polls indicate that the identification of Millennial voters with deeply progressive values and politics has remained strong, despite some concern that the increasing failures of the Obama Administration would weaken those among that youngest, most numerous generation. Doesn’t seem to have happened, however.

Instead what we see is that the battle over immigration isn’t a battle between white and brown, but a battle between young and old, a generational war over the future of California. Given the realities of human existence, it is a war the young are destined to win. But we’ll see if the old are able to take our prosperity and our values of diversity and equality down with them.

9 thoughts on “Assessing the USC/LA Times Poll”

  1. I think you are missing the boat to try to define this as a racial issue.  It is a cultural continuity issue which is exacerbated by the in your face unwillingness of Mexicans to asssimilate.  Race is a straw man argument.  And its an insult to play the race card over it.  As an issue, racism is a ship which ahs sailed.  In  today’s world, people will hop into the sack with anyone and start making babies. That’s not racism.  Hispanic women bear children at a rate 50% higher than blacks or whites.  That alone adds to fears of cultural shift.  The poll should ask if the US should become a Latin American country. Betcha even the foreigners don’t support that.

    Robert, you need to decide whether you want a positive immigration law or not.  If you do, the key to accomplish that is to ease tensions, not exacerbate them.  Support assimilation and to stop making things worse by insulting the host group.  Racism is a phony argument which turns off whites and eggs on Mexicans to be even more in your face culturally, which only makes matters worse.  There are a lot of tensions here and they need to be reduced, not amplified.  And on the subject of phony arguments, Foreigners on minimum wage do not pay a lot of taxes.  FIT on minimum wage is virtually nothing. Lose the polemics if you want a positive outcome.

  2. i have to say that i do agree w/ the oc mom lady about the acclimation thing-i see it & deal w/ it everyday.  and its not even just w/ immigrants-when it comes to societies or this state as a whole we dont really have any kind of bond/understanding.  i dont like that.  acclimation/bond/whatever u call it r very similar-its been going on for years.  this state is like a hummer & a prius.  

    i dont know if that lady in oc is a racist/intolerant-im not, i just thing immigration is out of control-theres too much of it & we need to take a break.  i say this btw as a person who grew up in a small town in sw PA where there were NO immigrants-or any outsiders btw.  so home was like a drought but this is like  a flash flood.  we just need to slow it down & control it.

    i am NOT a racist.

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