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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Why Latinos Supported Proposition 187: Testing the Economic Threat and Cultural Identity Hypotheses


Objective. This study explores factors that can either undermine or bolster political solidarity based on a shared "Latino" group identity by testing them within the context of Proposition 187. Methods. This research analyzes data from Field Polls conducted in October 1994, shortly before the general election where Proposition 187 appeared. Results. A set of multivariate analyses reveals that Latino support for 187 did not come from Latinos most likely to be economically threatened by immigration. Instead, Latinos who are non-citizens and who use Spanish as a primary language overwhelmingly opposed Proposition 187 because these are the Latinos who are most likely to face discrimination with the passage of the measure. Latinos who speak English and are citizens may have perceived no threat from 187, explaining why the supported the measure. The findings for Anglos corroborate other research showing that support for Proposition 187 was ideologically driven. Conclusion. The findings refine our understanding of the Latino population by 1) demonstrating that the group is not monolithic, and 2) identifying how issues of assimilation and cultural identity function to forge political divisions among Latinos.

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