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Illegal immigration a big concern to Republicans, but not to Democrats and Independents in California

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

According to this week’s California Field Poll, no one issue is going to influence Californians in who they choose to be their next governor.  In reality, they are considering a myriad of factors before they hit the ballot box in November.

By percentages, strong majorities rated Jobs/ the Economy (69%), the state budget deficit (68%), education (60%) and healthcare (51%) at the top of their list of concerns.   The only bipartisan consensus shared among registered Republicans and Democrats lay in finding the candidate to best address the state’s fiscal troubles.

The Field Poll made note of “significant differences” between Democrats and Republicans with regard to the issue of illegal immigration, however.  Along party lines, Republicans place illegal immigration as a higher concern than Democrats. By no means, however, does that mean that Democrats don’t believe that illegal immigration is a problem at all. It just implies that they do not consider it a top issue.

Out of twelve issues listed in the poll, 37% of voters saw illegal immigration as “Among the most important.”  Furthermore, concern for illegal immigration is down among polled participants from the 2006 gubernatorial election. In that year, 42% of survey participants found illegal immigration to be an issue of concern.

This year illegal immigration has taken a back seat to the economy. A mere 39% of those surveyed back in the 2006 poll were concerned about the economy.  In the 2010 poll, the percentage of those concerned with economy skyrocketed to 69% of those polled, providing an indication that illegal immigration has been crowded out by an issue closer to the wallets of California voters.

Along party lines, 27% of Democrats believe illegal immigration to be an issue of importance while an overwhelming 58% of Republicans are really concerned about the issue.  Identifying more with Democratic voters, 30% of nonpartisan voters were really concerned.

In light of the Field Poll’s finding, it provides a partial explanation for why gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner is continuing to fall behind in the polls.  For one thing, Meg Whitman is pouring a ton of cash into her campaign.  Poizner simply does not have the resources that Whitman has.  But for another, Poizner’s own election woes could be due to what key points he is emphasizing in his own campaign.

According to the Hill, Poizner is launching a 30 second illegal immigration ad in which he labels illegal immigration as a “Liberal Failure.” The ad is coming out just after a protest for immigration reform that occurred in Washington DC over the weekend.

Nevertheless, Poizner’s fiscal conservatism is one that could resonate with lots of voters.  It is also possible, though, that his fiscal message is being drowned out by what some voters could see as an overzealous attempt to deal with illegal immigration.

The Field Poll’s finding that illegal immigration concerns mostly Republicans lends credibility to speculation that Poizner’s political message is not reaching across the aisle to other voters.

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