Opponents to Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana, now outnumber supporters, 49 percent to 42 percent. In September, the exact reverse was true: the ballot measure was ahead 49 percent to 42 percent.
The Field Poll finds that Californians of most shades are turning against the landmark proposition, but ethnic voters remain its strongest and most steadfast opponents. Some 55 percent of Latinos oppose the measure, as do 62 percent of Chinese Americans and 75 percent of Korean Americans. Non-Hispanic whites remain evenly split (46 percent pro and against).
Only African Americans narrowly favor legalization, 45 percent to 40 percent.
Yet the strong negative numbers in ethnic communities do not tell the whole story, says Mark DiCamillo, the Field Poll’s director. “There is a huge generational gap,” DiCamillo says. “Younger ethnic voters are following their peers.”
Some 49 percent of ethnic voters ages 18-34 say they support legalization, while 38 percent oppose it. By comparison, only 21 percent of ethnic voters in the 66-plus age group favor legalization, versus 64 percent who oppose it.
The Field Poll has also been tracking ethnic communities’ support for Proposition 25, which would allow the state budget to be approved by a simple majority of lawmakers, as opposed to the current two-thirds requirement. The measure has been much in the news because of a string of budget impasses that have led to worker furloughs and IOUs for tax refunds and other state payments.
In this case, the ethnic vote does not deviate too far from other groups. The ballot measure is running ahead in all regions of the state, with 48 percent of voters in favor, versus 31 percent opposed. Supporters include 48 percent of Latinos and 55 percent of African Americans.
Asian voters also favor the measure, but their support is squishier, with more than half of Chinese-American and Vietnamese-American voters still undecided.
“What this shows is that the potential for big differences [between ethnic and white voters] is really on the social issues, like marijuana or same-sex marriage,” DiCamillo says. “That’s where you see the greatest divergence.”
The other hot-button ballot measure, Proposition 23, which would suspend the state’s landmark 2006 climate-change law until the economy recovers, is having a mixed reception among ethnic groups.
The ballot measure has had a hard time gaining traction among the overall electorate. The latest numbers—48 percent in favor, 33 percent opposed— are not significantly changed from July.
Most ethnic groups oppose Proposition 23, although Latinos remain closely split (37 percent in favor, 36 percent opposed). DiCamillo speculated that arguments by the measure’s proponents—that the climate-change law is a jobs killer—“carry more weight in that community.”
But he points out that African Americans, who have also suffered disproportionately in the recession, oppose the ballot measure 53 percent to 33 percent.
The results show that the notion of a single “ethnic bloc” is misguided, DiCamillo says. “There can be great divergence within ethnic communities on these issues,” he says. “For example, when we polled on illegal immigration, there were huge differences between Latinos and other ethnic groups.”
The fights over marijuana and climate change are being keenly followed across the nation because California is regarded as a bellwether state.
“California leads the way in certain progressive issues,” says DiCamillo. “But it’s also true that the older ethnic voting community remains among the most conservative of any segment by age.”
DiCamillo says this doesn’t surprise him. He remembers his grandfather, who came over from Italy. “If I did anything out of the ordinary, he would whack me over the head,” DiCamillo says.
The Field Poll interviewed 1,501 registered statewide voters from October 14-26. The telephone interviews were conducted in six languages: English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese.
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