New Poll Shows Racial Divide on California’s DREAM Act

Nearly 80 percent of Latinos support the measure, while only 30 percent of whites think it's a step in the right direction.

By Jorge Rivas Nov 22, 2011

A Los Angeles Times survey has found a significant racial divide among likely voters on the state’s DREAM Act. The bill would allow undocumented immigrant students to apply for state-funded financial aid, and has become been the source of widespread direct action organizing by students across the country. The Times poll found that, among Latinos, 79 percent support the measure, compared with only 30 percent of whites.

Last month, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the California DREAM Act into law. "The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us," Brown said about the law, which goes into effect in 2013.

But a survey found that many white Californians worry that they’re being priced out of the state’s prestigious public university system, and they’re worried that allowing undocumented immigrants access to state-funded financial aid is making a bad situation even worse.

More from the LA Times:

There is a huge ethnic divide on the issue, according to the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times survey: 79% of Latinos approve of the law, while only 30% of whites do.

"There are not a lot of other issues on which there are such huge differences," said Manuel Pastor, a USC professor of American studies and ethnicity.

Partly, he said, it’s easier for many Latinos, because they may know more undocumented people, to "understand the potential of someone who lacks papers but can really contribute to America."

But there are pocketbook factors too, especially in rough economic times, said Pastor, director of USC’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. The poll shows that more Latinos than whites feel they may be unable to afford a university education; they may be more likely to support aid for all needy students, he said.

The bipartisan survey found that a narrow majority of registered Democrats, 53%, support the new policy, which was signed into law last month by a fellow Democrat, Gov. Jerry Brown. But only 23% of Republicans do.

Supporters say California’s DREAM act will result in higher income tax payments once recipients graduate because they’ll qualify for better paying jobs. 

The survey was conducted for the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and The Times by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic firm, with American Viewpoint, a Republican company.