California Voters Support Affirmative Action, Says New Survey

National Asian American Survey LogoCalifornia voters in all racial groups support affirmative action, according to a report released today by the National Asian American Survey (NAAS).

That is a significant change from 1996 when 55 percent of the state’s voters supported Prop 209, which ended affirmative policies in public employment, contracting and education in California, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, survey director and professor of public policy and political science at UC Riverside.

The report – “Views of a Diverse Electorate: Opinions of California Registered Voters in 2014” – analyzes data gathered by the Field Poll in a survey that asked 1,280 registered voters about the direction California and the country are heading, the job performance of President Barack Obama and Congress, and their views on the death penalty and affirmative action. Registered voters were surveyed by telephone between Aug. 14 and 28, and the data allow for comparisons between whites, Latinos, African Americans, and Asian Americans.

As the report notes, in 1994, 77 percent of registered voters were white, 11.4 percent were Latino, 5.9 percent were African American, and 4.4 percent were Asian American. In 2012, 55.6 percent of registered voters were white, 24 percent were Latino, 10.3 percent were Asian American, and 6.9 percent were African American.

“The growing diversification of California’s electorate is unmistakable,” Ramakrishnan and co-author Taeku Lee, professor of political science and law at UC Berkeley, wrote in the report. “This is a remarkable transformation in the electorate over 20 years, and a sign of even greater change to come as Asian Americans and Latinos are among the fastest growing groups in the state,” they added.

Asian Americans have been included in general surveys of voters in the past only occasionally, Ramakrishnan said. “That needs to happen more frequently. If we don’t have regular surveys that include a sizeable number of Asian Americans, we get an incomplete picture of the California electorate,” he said.

For example, Ramakrishnan said, there was significant activism earlier this year among Asian Americans in Los Angeles suburbs and the Silicon Valley who opposed affirmative action.

“But we did not know if this was the opinion and effective mobilization of a select group, or reflective of a larger sea-change in the Asian American community,” he noted. “And we now know that support among Asian Americans has declined from 2012, but is still high in support of affirmative action,” he added.

More generally, Ramakrishnan noted that without timely surveys of Asian Americans in California, we can have a partial or misleading picture of what Asian American voters care about.

Read highlights of the findings and download the report.

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