60% of Californians reject reparations for descendants of slaves

The two most cited reasons for opposing reparations were the unfairness of paying today for the evils of the past, and that the payments only compensate a single group, when others have also suffered because of their race and religion.

A majority of Californians (60%) think the "legacy of slavery" affects their fellow citizens who descend from slaves, but do not believe they should be compensated financially (59%). Among those opposed to reparations, a majority (44%) are "strongly" against, according to the latest edition of the Berkeley IGS Poll.

It is unfair to pay today for the evils of yesterday

Although, as said, Californians mostly think that the descendants of slaves suffer today from the slavery of their ancestors, they also believe that paying reparations would be trying to fix one injustice with another injustice.

Sixty percent agree with the previous idea, formulated by poll as follows: "It’s unfair to ask today’s taxpayers to pay for wrongs committed in the past."

A similar percentage, 53%, also believe that "it’s not fair to single out one group for reparations when other racial and religious groups have been wronged in the past." This helps explain, perhaps, the opposition to reparations from 65% of non-Hispanic whites, 59% of Latinos, and the same number of Asians and Pacific Islanders.

The third most common reason for opposing the payments was that it would be complicated to implement. Specifically, the issues would be with determining who receives payments and how much. Twenty-three percent held this opinion. Also, 20% rejected the proposal because they believe that reparations are a national problem and 19% said it would cost the state too much.

They oppose, therefore, one of the main recommendations of the California Reparations Committee, convened by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020. After a year of deliberations, its members recommended that the state formally apologize and pay $1.2 million per descendant.

The committee also advised to distinguish according to the injustices suffered. So, for example, those who have ancestors who were excluded by banks could see the amount increased. There would also be extra benefits those who lived in the state at a certain time: $3,366 more per year lived in California between 1930 and the late 1970s.

The task force's report still needs to be evaluated by Newsom and the largely Democratic state legislature. After the recommendations were made in June, the governor avoided endorsing them, saying the process involved "much more than cash payments."

At the moment it is not clear if Californians' disapproval will end up burying the proposal. The survey shows that it has an "uphill climb," in the words of the IGS Co-Director Cristina Mora.

The fact that even liberals are divided indicates that campaigns for racial redress will face a steep uphill climb.

Partisan division

A clear majority of Republican voters in The Golden State reject the idea that slavery still affects black people in the state. Sixty-nine percent answered that it does not affect in the least, 12% that only a little.

Democrats are generally located on the opposite side, though with less consensus: 39% said that it affects a lot; 28%, somewhat; 13%, a little and 31%, not at all.

The partisan rift remains when consulting on the state's racial policies. Fifty-one percent of Republicans think California is going overboard in its efforts to do "enough to ensure that its Black residents have a fair chance to succeed." On the other hand, 43% of Democratic supporters think that it does "too little."

Despite the polarization, both parties have a similar percentage (although a minority) in the middle: 21% of Republicans and 26% of Democrats say the state is doing what is right and necessary.

On the Committee on Reparations, specifically, GOP voters tend to be more informed. Some 77% had heard of the task force and its mission, while 58% of Democrats said the same.

The relative uniformity among Democrats cracks in the face of the cash reparations recommended by the committee. While 43% support the measure, 42% oppose it, and 15% have no opinion. Republicans remain cohesive: 91% rejected the initiative, with 85% totally opposed and 6% only somewhat.

Those who do not have a party preference are also against reparations: 63% oppose, while 24% are in favor.

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