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Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll finds minimal support for cash reparations

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SEPTEMBER 15, 2023

A poll released by the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, or IGS, last Sunday found that most Californians oppose cash reparations for Black American descendants of people who were enslaved.

The poll, administered from Aug. 24-29, was taken by a stratified random sample of 6,030 registered California voters, according to the polling data.

A section of the polling questionnaire focused on public opinion of California’s Reparations Task Force showed that 60% of respondents answered that the legacy of slavery affects the position of Black Californians today to some extent, but a separate question on the survey shows less support for reparations.

The questionnaire itself states, “One of the Reparations Task Force’s recommendations calls for the state government to make cash payments to the descendants of enslaved Blacks depending on how many years a person has lived in California. Do you favor or oppose this recommendation?”

Of the responses, only 28% favored the recommendation for cash reparations. Those opposed were asked to select a rationale that best suited their personal reasoning — 60% of respondents in opposition resonated with the sentence “It’s unfair to ask today’s taxpayers to pay for wrongs committed in the past.”

However, IGS advisory board member and former Reparations Task Force representative Jovan Lewis believes that the poll’s questions were misleading and lacked context. According to Lewis, the poll question failed to mention that the cash payments would be based on calculated economic losses suffered by Black Californians in areas such as healthcare, mass incarceration and housing discrimination.

“Because of this omission, the poll incorrectly suggests that the recommended cash payments are a broad solution to racial injustice,” Lewis said in an email. “Without this essential information, respondents unsurprisingly reacted negatively, seeing it as a form of affirmative action rather than as reimbursement for specific, calculable economic losses.”

The Berkeley IGS Poll has been administering regularly scheduled polls to registered California voters for the past 5-6 years, according to Berkeley IGS Poll Director Mark DiCamillo. DiCamillo noted that the polls are public and nonpartisan, and make an effort to broadly cover most issues on the table for the state of California. The Berkeley IGS Poll is funded in part by the Los Angeles Times, who consider themselves the state’s “paper of record,” DiCamillo stated.

“The questions (on the poll) were reviewed by my colleagues, and my colleagues at the Los Angeles Times,” DiCamillo said. “It’s a process, and it keeps going through revisions, and you try to work it through as best as you can.”

While IGS has not polled on reparations in the past, DiCamillo noted that the findings from this poll seem similar to results from national polls on the subject. There were clear patterns in respondents’ opinions when subgrouped by political party and ideology; registered Democrats were much more open to the idea of reparations as a whole than Republicans, who took a more conservative stance.

DiCamillo added that IGS does not currently plan to poll again on reparations, but the question of its accuracy remains.

“The lack of context in the poll does a disservice to California voters and undermines the reparations that Black Californians rightfully deserve for economic losses incurred due to state policies,” Lewis said in an email.

Contact Ria Raniwala at 


SEPTEMBER 15, 2023