Prop. 54 Gets Little Support

Times Staff Writer

California voters, virtually across the board, appear poised to turn down a proposition that would bar the state from collecting or using most kinds of racial and ethnic data, according to a new Los Angeles Times poll.

Likely voters in Tuesday’s election oppose the measure, known as Proposition 54, by 54% to 31%, with 15% undecided, the poll found. With the election less than a week away and the measure largely overshadowed by the gubernatorial recall on the same ballot, the results indicate that supporters of the proposition are unlikely to pull out a victory.

The poll, which included 815 likely voters, found that respondents from nearly every geographic and demographic group across the state -- with few exceptions -- are leaning against Proposition 54. Its strongest support comes from Republicans, especially conservative Republicans, and from the Central Valley.

The measure would amend the state Constitution to stop state agencies from classifying individuals on the basis of race, ethnicity, color or national origin. Exemptions would allow for continued collection of some data -- to comply with federal law, to establish or maintain eligibility for federal programs and for certain medical research and law enforcement purposes.


The measure’s chief sponsor, University of California Regent Ward Connerly, says it would push the state toward a society where race doesn’t matter, or matters less. Opponents, including civil rights advocates, public health researchers and educators, say that by suppressing vital information, it would harm school reforms, make disease harder to track and hurt anti-discrimination efforts.

Democratic respondents to the survey, conducted Sept. 25-29, strongly oppose the measure, by 71% to 13%, with independents also against it, 46% to 40%. Republicans favor the proposition, 48% to 38%, with conservative Republicans slightly more supportive, 49% to 35%.

Geographically, the Central Valley was the only area of the state where a plurality of likely voters backed the measure, the poll found, with 46% favoring it and 40% opposed. In all other regions, including Los Angeles County and the Bay Area, voters were by and large opposed.

Otherwise, the survey found that opposition to the measure, though varying somewhat in degree, held true for virtually all subgroups -- for men and women, for whites, Latinos, blacks and Asians, as well as for voters of every age and all education and income levels.


The results show that the well-organized campaign against the initiative may be striking a chord, said Susan Pinkus, the director of the Times Poll. A television ad featuring former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop is now airing statewide, and rallies and marches against the measure are planned up to election day.

Supporters, meanwhile, who have struggled to raise money, are relying largely on e-mail and grass-roots networking.

The telephone poll, completed Monday night, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.