On Thursday, a new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll found that a near majority of voters plan to vote against Proposition 16, the ballot measure to reverse 1996’s Proposition 209 and reinstate affirmative action in California.
47% of Californians against Prop 16, 22% currently undecided
The new poll continues to show the decline in support for Prop 16, which had a high percentage of support earlier this year due the George Floyd protests and subsequent racial justice mandates. As of Wednesday, only 31% of California voters said they would vote for Prop 16, with 47% of those surveyed saying that they would not. The other 22% remained undecided.
Prop 16 began earlier this year as Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5. Written by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson), the proposition would once again factor in race and gender for public university admissions and state employment. ACA 5 was controversially passed by both houses earlier this year and, like the previous attempt to overturn Prop 209 in 2014, has brought out many charges of anti-Asian racism.
These charges, enflamed by incidents such as Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) threatening to punch an Asian person in the face, as well criticism that affirmative action would not pick higher qualified students and job candidates, who are of overwhelming white and Asian ancestry in California.
The decline in support as evidenced by the new poll figures has led many experts to say that those in favor of Prop 16 need to get the word out soon before the first ballots are mailed out next month.
“Some explaining needs to be done if the proponents have any hopes of seeing this passed in November,” said PPIC president Mark Baldassare. “People are hearing about this for the first time, not knowing where it came from, what it does, who is for it, who is against it.”
While No on Prop 16 and groups in support of the proposition did not get back to requests from the Globe, policy experts have noted that, despite major demographic changes since 1996, support against affirmative action remains high.
Racial, party factors influence the decline of support for Prop 16
“California is more conservative than many people think,” explained Washington-based ballot measure expert and analyst Veronica Newton. “The poll confirmed many things, such as a split but more on the side of against white vote, Asian-Americans being against it, and African-Americans being for it. But it also showed a split among Hispanics. In fact it was 40% for it to 38% against it according to the poll. Not many people expected that.”
“And more Democrats are against it passing than Republicans are for it. Democrats outnumber Republicans in California, registered that is, 2 to 1. But you have to remember the divisive layout of the party is much like 1976. Many Republicans have withdrawn from the party temporarily due to disagreements over who is in charge. In ’76, many were mad at Ford for pardoning Nixon and went with Carter or just didn’t vote, while now many are unsure about Trump over several issues.”
“And that’s skewed things. There’s a huge number of unaffiliated voters now, especially in California, and many of them have conservative leanings. A lot of polls were working on the notion of it being by party, but with so many Republicans not identifying as a Republican in 2020, expectations were much different.”
“Bottom line is that race and party preference surprises had really distorted earlier polls, and no one expected this big of a potential gap.”
“A lot of liberal people have been surprised that California still doesn’t have affirmative action, but they always overlook the large conservative base, the fact that many Hispanic voters are conservative, Asian-Americans really pressing racial discrimination, and a lot of other associated negative impacts of the Proposition.”
“This poll is just backing all of that up and surprising people who always agreed with the blue California narrative.”
Many pro-Prop 16 organizations have vowed to increase efforts following the release of the poll.
Proposition 16 will be on the November 2020 ballot.