Half of Hispanic voters support official English
Associated Press
Nov. 12, 2006

Jacques Billeud

About half the Hispanics who voted Tuesday in Arizona supported a successful ballot proposal that makes English the state's official language, according to an exit poll by the Associated Press.

While Whites and Blacks favored it overwhelmingly, Hispanics and other racial groups were divided over Proposition 103, which also requires that government functions be conducted in English.

Like three other immigration measures on the Arizona ballot, Proposition 103 drew in support in the 70-percent range. People on both side of the immigration debate said they weren't surprised by Hispanic support for the proposal. Fred Solop, a political science professor and pollster at Northern Arizona University, said the views of Hispanics are varied and shaped by their education, income and the length of their families' presence in Arizona.

"I think our sense that the Hispanic community is monolithic is just shattered when these issues come before us," Solop said.

The poll of 2,523 voters was conducted for AP and television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.

The survey included 600 absentee voters interviewed by telephone during the past week and their responses were weighted to represent 20 percent of the total sample - their estimated proportion of the state's electorate. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, higher for subgroups.

Immigrant rights advocates said Hispanic support for the measure isn't a swipe against immigrants, but rather reflects a feeling that people ought to speak English in America.

"Even the immigrants who can't vote know they have to speak English to prosper," said Lydia Guzman, chairwoman for the Coalition for Latino Political Action, which opposed the four measures.

Republican state Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, the driving force behind the immigration package, said the measure's support from Hispanic voters reflects their love of the country.

"They are Americans, and they understand what's good for America," Pearce said.

Those who proposed the measure said that proposal was needed to encourage the assimilation of immigrants.

Immigrant advocates said it serves no practical purpose and was meant to tap into voter frustration over Arizona's border woes.

Kevin Miller, a self-described open-minded Democratic who isn't wedded to either party's ideology, said he was frustrated with immigrants using government services and that the country needs a smarter approach to border security.

More than half of Democrats voted for Proposition 103, and nearly three-fourths of independents favored it. Nine in 10 Republicans supported it, according to the exit poll.

The proposal enjoyed a broad base of support across all age categories, though younger voters favored it least.

The poll also found that four in five people without college degrees favored the measure. But it still drew overwhelming support from college graduates, who favored it by a 2-to-1 ratio. Nearly three-fourths of Hispanics who were college graduates opposed it.