(Getty Images)
(Getty Images) (Getty Images)

A majority of the state’s voters support extending current health insurance programs to all low-income Californians, including undocumented immigrants, according to a new statewide poll released Monday.

The poll was commissioned by The California Endowment, a foundation that has been actively working to expand health insurance access to all people, regardless of immigration status. The Affordable Care Act expressly bars undocumented immigrants from receiving any of its benefits, including subsidies to purchase health insurance.

In the poll, 54 percent of those surveyed said they support covering the undocumented. Support was strongest among younger voters as well as Latino respondents and African Americans.

Those surveyed were also asked about specific aspects of the policy approach. Total support for those issues were as follows:

  • 86 percent: support important access to preventive care to reduce overall health costs and prevent spread of disease
  • 69 percent: support ensuring that working undocumented immigrants can purchase affordable health insurance
  • 56 percent: support expanding Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid, to undocumented residents
  • 54 percent: support making subsidies to purchase Covered California plans available to working undocumented immigrants. Covered California is the state’s Obamacare marketplace.

In conducting the poll, the California Endowment retained two polling firms, FM3, which generally handles Democratic campaigns, and GS Strategy Group, which generally handles Republican campaigns. The stated goal was to reflect the perspective of both parties. In breakdowns by party, liberal and moderate Republicans had strong support for access to preventive care and ensuring that undocumented immigrants can purchase affordable health insurance.

The surveyed voters were read a statement that explicitly referenced unreimbursed health care costs:

“Currently, health care providers are required by law to provide emergency care to all Californians, including those who are undocumented, whether or not they have health insurance coverage. The costs of this care are currently passed on to other patients and taxpayers.”

This explanation of costs seemed to have made an impact on respondents, especially when seen in light of the 86 percent support for access to preventive care. “We’ve seen this in a lot of other research,” said Dave Metz with FM3, “that voters think investments in prevention make a great deal of sense both from an economic and public health perspective, and that’s true for this policy as well.”

Respondents were also presented with statements explicitly opposed to the proposal of expanding access to health insurance, including that “undocumented immigrants are breaking the law and should not be rewarded.” Total support actually went up slightly, from 54 to 56 percent, after respondents heard the negatives messages.

Daniel Zingale, senior vice president for the Endowment pointed to the strong support in young voters for expanding health programs to the undocumented. Those 18-29 showed 68 percent support and people 30-39 had 61 percent support. Zingale said there seems to be a “generational shift under way in California and attitudes around these particular questions seems to even transcend the partisan divide.”

Earlier this year, Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced SB 1005, the Health for All Act, which would have expanded Medi-Cal to undocumented immigrants and created a new insurance exchange for the undocumented to obtain subsidized insurance. The bill ultimately stalled in the senate.

Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a consumer advocacy group said the poll results give “hope and momentum” to efforts to pass a bill next year. “We had a lot of energy and enthusiasm and coalition support last year, and with the findings that this is getting increasing public support, we fell like we have momentum to win this year,” he said.

The poll was a survey of 800 registered California voters. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish on landlines and wireless phones. Phone calls were made August 24-31.

Pollsters noted that they conducted an additional 154 interviews among African American voters. The purpose was to oversample and ensure a more accurate position of the group.

“There’s some perception out there that there’s an African American vs. Latino divide on this issue,” Zingale said, explaining the reason for the oversample. In the poll, 69 percent of Latinos support expanding access to undocumented, and 68 percent of African Americans support the proposal.

“We’re pleased to see in this survey,” Zingale said, “there seems to be zero evidence” of such a divide.

Poll: Majority of California Voters Support Health Coverage for Undocumented Immigrants 6 October,2014Lisa Aliferis

  • Christian1

    “Undocumented”, same as “Illegal” – don’t you people get it? And guess who pays for this, yes, that is correct. All documented/legal California citizens!

  • annjohns

    The question is leading and they still only “got” 54% mostly the young and Latinos themselves, who are notoriously ignorant of how insurance and medicaid work and what they cost. LInk to the actual poll, all the questions asked and statements made?

    • jskdn

      No actual journalist should report any poll that doesn’t make its topline questionnaire and methodology available. Links should be provided. I couldn’t find it on the CE website or that of the Idaho pr firm. It’s not enough to allude to the agenda of the poll sponsors. Much of privately-contracted polling is really just advocacy. They use and sometime pretest questions and their order to see what produces the results they seek.

      I wonder why the fabulously wealthy California Endowment would choose these firms instead of the respected Field organization, which just did polling for the other Blue Cross non-profit-to-profit conversion foundation, the California Wellness Foundation. That conversion created the worst of both worlds, health insurance driven by share-holder profits, and unaccountable, left-wing ideologues with huge resources to promote their agendas though politics and government, not charity.

  • elldogg

    It really shouldn’t matter if it were 100%, since aiding and abetting foreign nationals in the country illegally (criminals) is a treasonous offense anyway. Every tax dollar spent on illegal aliens is a dollar stolen from taxpayers–and I sure did not give my permission to use my money!

  • Kurt thialfad

    “Affordable Care Act expressly bars undocumented immigrants from receiving any of its benefits, including subsidies to purchase health insurance.” I am a California voter who supports that position. If we give benefits to aliens for breaking our laws, they will continue to break the. That’s how the system is broken. If we withdraw the incentives, then aliens will stop coming here unlawfully.


Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED’s State of Health blog. Since 2011, she’s been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco’s CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for “Best Topical Reporting” from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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