Poll: California voters offer mixed views on death penalty, sanctuary laws, horse racing
Californians’ opinions are sharply divided about the death penalty and sanctuary-city policies, but they’re in broad agreement that climate change is a problem and President Trump’s threat to close the border with Mexico is a bad idea, according to a poll released Thursday, April 11.
The Quinnipiac University Poll asked 1,005 California voters April 3-8 about several familiar issues and a few new ones, including views of horse racing in the wake of 23 horses’ deaths in three months at Santa Anita.
The poll found that 48% of Californians prefer that people convicted of murder receive life in prison with no chance for parole, while 41% prefer that they get the death penalty. But in what seems like a contradiction, 46% oppose Gov. Gavin Newsom’s suspension of the death penalty, while 44% support Newsom’s policy.
Newsom’s mid-March order suspending executions in California has been controversial in part because critics say it defied the will of voters expressed in recent ballot initiatives regarding capital punishment.
The poll, which has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points, found state residents also are divided about so-called sanctuary cities, with 46% saying cities “should be able to deal with immigrants as they see fit,” and 47% saying cities should be “forced to comply with federal immigration efforts.”
By an overwhelming margin of 70% to 23%, Californians said they oppose closing the southern border, something Trump has threatened to do if Mexico doesn’t halt illegal immigration to the United States, the poll found.
Also by a solid margin, 63% to 33%, state voters told the pollsters that climate change is “an emergency.” But few were getting behind the Green New Deal, with 16% stating support, 27% opposition and 56% no opinion yet about the environmental and economic policy package proposals sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.
When asked by pollsters about major statewide officials, voters expressed more approval than disapproval — but hardly majority support — for Newsom (40%-33%), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (47%-37%) and Sen. Kamala Harris (47%-30%), who is running for president.
Democrats and Republicans differed dramatically on most questions. Among GOP voters only, 68% support the death penalty over life in prison, 88% oppose sanctuary cities, 59% favor closing the border, 75% say climate change is not an emergency, and 75% disapprove of Newsom’s job performance three months into his term.
It was “no surprise” that members of the two major parties were so polarized, said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll.
The poll was the first to ask Californians for their opinions about horse racing since an unusually high number of fatal injuries to horses in races and workouts prompted Santa Anita Park in Arcadia to interrupt racing for most of March. The deaths have drawn state and county investigations, and brought calls from Feinstein and Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, for Santa Anita to halt racing pending those findings.
Asked if Newsom should create an independent panel to investigate the deaths of racehorses, 55% said yes and 35% said no, according to the poll.
Asked about their general views on horse racing, 19% said they were favorable and 20% unfavorable, while 59% expressed no opinion.
Reacting to the high percentage with no opinion, advocates on both sides saw an opportunity to sway the public.
“It’s no surprise to us that only 19% of California voters have a favorable view of racing,” said Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which favors banning horse racing. “More have an unfavorable view, and the majority don’t even care enough to have an opinion about it.”
Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said the poll shows “we have work to do to educate the public concerning our commitment to the safety of the horse.”
The poll focusing on California was the second this week by Quinnipiac, which is in Connecticut.
A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday asked California Democrats about the 2020 presidential race, finding Joe Biden is the choice of 26%, Bernie Sanders 18% and Harris 17%.