California Dems Push Affirmative Action Against Wishes of Voters

New polling finds voters don't want racial preferences in public institutions

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October 8, 2020

New polling shows that affirmative action is unpopular among California voters, even as California Democrats move to reinstate the practice at public universities.

A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows 47 percent of California voters plan to vote against Proposition 16, a ballot measure that would repeal the state's ban on racial preferences in public institutions. Just 31 percent of voters say they support the measure, and 22 percent are undecided. Prop 16 has nonetheless garnered approval from powerful left-leaning stakeholders, including the University of California system, which voted unanimously to endorse the ballot measure in June. The UC's board of regents said its endorsement was part of the "amazing momentum for righting the wrongs caused by centuries of systemic racism in our country."

Vice-presidential candidate and former California attorney general Kamala Harris is another big-name proponent of Prop 16, despite its unpopularity in her own state. Before she became a U.S. senator, Harris filed legal briefs in favor of race-based admissions at both the University of Texas and the University of Michigan. The UC system—the top lobbying force behind Prop 16—was the top donor to her 2020 presidential bid.

Likewise, Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Karen Bass (D., Calif.), former Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Tom Steyer, and Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti (D.) have all endorsed the measure. So have a slew of teachers' unions and a Los Angeles Unified School District board member, who represents the second-largest public school district in the country.

Stop Prop 16, a coalition of voters against race-based affirmative action, told the Washington Free Beacon that current polling dramatically underestimates how many voters are against the proposition. Tony Guan, a spokesman for the group, said its internal polling found that more than 80 percent of verified voters plan to vote down Prop 16. Still, he worries that many people are afraid to express those views publicly.

"Some of our endorsers ... are worried about the attacks from the [vote yes] side," Guan told the Free Beacon. "In the state legislature, [opponents of Prop 16] did not vote yes or no, but they were attacked very badly by their Democrat peers. They called [opponents of the measure] racist."

Nonetheless, the group believes it can overcome that stigma and attract undecided voters. Guan said that when he is out knocking on doors and passing out flyers, many people are not aware of what Prop 16 is. But "once they learn about it they are against it," he added. "If people were looking for jobs before 1996—when it was legal to discriminate based on race—they remember how bad this discrimination was."