Immigration reform is a complex topic, so it can be quite difficult to quantify public opinion on the subject. But in early May the Institute of Governmental Studies conducted an online poll to do just that. The survey, answered by 3,100 registered California voters, began with a simple choice between the status quo and a pathway to citizenship for all immigrants. Each answer led to more nuanced options in order to understand the specific priorities and opinions of California voters.
Jack Citrin, director of the Institute, found that “Beneath the generally positive views of immigration, Californians want strict enforcement, limitation of illegal immigration in the future, and prioritization of immigrants who ‘fit in’ and contribute.”
These “generally positive views” in favor of a path to citizenship for all immigrants were expressed by 58 percent of those surveyed. As more options were added to the question, such as paths to citizenship for only some illegal immigrants or residency programs not leading to citizenship, that support remained at a constant 58 percent. Meanwhile, those in favor of “making every effort to return all illegal immigrants to their home countries” dropped from 42 to 20 percent of respondents.
When the option was added of providing a path to citizenship only for those qualifying under the Dream Act—people who immigrated as children and have enrolled in college or served in the military—rather than for all illegal immigrants, California voters revealed a preference for Dreamers’ citizenship. The Dream Act won 39 percent of the voters’ support away from a pathway to citizenship for all immigrants. Furthermore, two-thirds of voters thought steady work and the passage of an English test was an “extremely important” requirement for citizenship; 52.8 percent regarded a fee as “extremely important” in becoming a citizen.
In other words, California voters value immigrants who can assimilate into American culture and contribute to the economy.