Over the last two decades, immigration has transformed California's ethnic landscape and politics. Historically, such rapid change in the ethnic composition of the state has engendered group competition and conflict. As California becomes a "majority minority" state, political competition among minority groups is increasingly common. This development has led to heated controversies and complex policy debates on a range of ethnic issues, including whether and how the government should use ethnicity as a criterion for distributing public benefits.

In Ethnic Context, Race Relations, and California Politics, Bruce Cain, Jack Citrin, and Cara Wong describe public attitudes toward the changing ethnic composition of California and explore how these attitudes are related to voting patterns on important policy questions. In particular, the authors focus on the influence of ethnic context, or the ethnic composition of neighborhoods, on the formation of these attitudes. Using data from a survey conducted just before the vote on Proposition 209, the ballot initiative which forbade the use of ethnic preferences by public agencies in California, the authors find no strong evidence that attitudes or voting behavior are shaped by ethnic context. At the same time, they find no reason to believe that ethnic group relations are particularly troubled in highly diverse areas or that these areas will serve as cauldrons for future problems. For this reason, they conclude that ethnic tensions are not preordained to increase as Californians continue to adjust to the shifting ethnic landscape.

This project was supported by PPIC through an Extramural Research Program contract.