Pacific Opinions

February 1, 2001

So Cal Crazy About Fox, Mixed on Mexico
New Poll Finds Strong Divisions on Open Border, Impact on Economy

IRVINE, CA - Voters in Orange and San Diego County widely recognize and hold favorable views of Mexican President Vicente Fox, but remain deeply divided on his policy to open the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a new independent poll released Thursday.

Overall, Fox enjoys wide recognition by the public, with 81% of voters in San Diego County and 75% of voters in Orange County saying they are familiar with the new Mexican president. Among Latino voters in San Diego, Fox is as well known as California Governor Gray Davis and better known than San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy. In Orange County, 87% of Latino voters have heard of Fox, while 75% have heard of the County Board of Supervisors.

Fox Viewed Favorably by All, Strongest Base Are 35-49 Male Voters

Among those who know Fox, 76% of San Diego County voters and 70% of Orange County voters say they have a favorable view of him. Fewer than 7% in both counties have an unfavorable view.

Fox's popularity is highest among male voters, of all ethnic backgrounds. Mexican American men, particularly those under age 50, hold the most strongly favorable views of Fox.

Significant Differences on Importance of Relations with Mexico, Other Issues

The poll asked voters about a series of issues facing local officials in Orange County and San Diego County and which they felt was "top priority". The results reveal important differences between Mexican Americans and white voters, with higher proportions of Mexican American voters in both counties naming health care, jobs, affordable housing and improving ethnic relations as top priorities.

Nearly half of all Mexican American voters in San Diego and more than 1 in 3 in Orange County say relations with Mexico should be a top priority for local officials. Yet fewer than 1 in 4 white voters agree. Among Mexican Americans, the issue of relations with Mexico are most important among those who are less affluent, older and have lived in the United States for a relatively short time.

Open Border Proposal Reveals Big Differences

The biggest differences found in the poll come on Fox's proposal to create an open border between the US and Mexico.

Overall, voters in both counties oppose the proposal. Opposition is highest in Orange County, where 58% of voters oppose opening the border and 33% support it. In San Diego, opposition is slightly lower, with 52% opposing the plan and 37% supporting it.

But among Mexican American voters in both counties, the poll finds the opposite: 53% in Orange County support the idea, while 52% percent in San Diego back the plan. Latino voters, generally, are more divided on the issue (49% to 44% in OC; 49% to 43% in SD).

The poll finds age and party lines as having the most impact on a voter's position. Voters over 65 and registered Republicans - both White and Latino - are most likely to be opposed to opening the border. Among Mexican Americans, men are generally divided on the issue while women tend to favor it.

The survey finds that views on Fox have some influence on how voters see the open border issue. But even among those who have favorable views of the President, a majority in both counties still oppose opening the border.

"Fox's charisma and reform proposals are opening the arms and minds of voters," said Dr. Christian Collet, director of the poll. "But it will take some time before he is able to open the border."

SD Voters See Open Border as Benefit for Local Economy; OC Voters Say It Will Harm Them

In contrast to their views on opening the border, a plurality of San Diego County voters say the proposal would be a benefit for the local economy. Overall, 47% say opening the border would be a good thing for the local economy, with 17% percent saying it would be a "very good" thing. While Latino voters generally believe an open border would benefit the economy, white voters are almost equally divided, 41%-43%. Sixteen percent are unsure.

In Orange County, however, voters tend to see an open border as potentially harmful to their economy. Fifty-two percent of all OC voters say they believe an open border would be a "bad thing" for the Orange County economy, while just 32% say it would be a "good thing."

Overall, voters in both counties see Mexico as being the greater beneficiary of an open border. White and Latino voters again differ on the issue, with 54% of white voters in San Diego County and 52% in Orange County saying Mexico would benefit more. By contrast, pluralities of Latinos in Orange County and San Diego County say both countries would benefit.

About The Pacific Poll and Pacific Opinions

The Pacific Poll, of a random sample of 1,051 registered voters in San Diego County and Orange County, was administered by telephone between January 14th and 23rd, 2001. Conducted in English and Spanish, the poll includes interviews with 503 self-identified Latinos, 410 of whom were self-identified Mexican Americans. The margin of sampling error for the entire sample is approximately +/- 3.1 percentage points. For the San Diego and Orange County samples, the error is approximately +/-4.5 percentage points. Sampling error is just one potential error in opinion surveys; results can be affected by other factors such as question wording and order.

Pacific Opinions is an independent research company based in Irvine, California who conducts polls and survey research for private-sector clients and non-profit organizations. Christian Collet, Ph.D. is the senior partner of Pacific Opinions and a political scientist at University of California, Irvine. Jeanett Castellanos, Ph.D., a lecturer in the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies at University of California, Irvine, consulted Pacific Opinions on this study.

The Pacific Poll is a public-interest research project funded by Pacific Opinions. It is conducted regularly on social and political issues in the diverse communities of Orange County and San Diego.