More than 75 percent of registered voters in Southern California already have cast a mail-in ballot or plan to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 6, a level of enthusiasm that could translate into record turnout for the upcoming midterm.
Whats more, clear majorities of voters who register as Republicans or Democrats describe themselves as “strongly” connected to their party, as opposed to somewhere in the middle. That could reflect an uptick in political passion in a state where for several years the fastest growing voter registration category has been “no party preference.”
The findings come from a poll looking at voter preferences in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties conducted by UC Riversides Center for Social Innovation for the Southern California News Group.
The poll, which recently queried 1,291 registered voters and others in the four counties and ended Tuesday, Oct. 30, touched on everything from state and federal races slated to be decided on Nov. 6 to the effectiveness of state and local government on key social issues.
Some findings in the poll, which has a 3 percent margin of error, contradicted others.
For example, while large numbers of voters plan to cast ballots, and many feel strongly about their political party, many also remain undecided on several races and issues.
In the contest for U.S. Senate, incumbent Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein leads fellow Democrat Kevin De Leon, 43 percent to 33 percent. But a potentially game-changing 24 percent of Southern California voters remained undecided less than two weeks before election day, according to the poll.
Though less pronounced, a similar pattern could shape the race for governor. More than half (52 percent) of Southern California voters currently favor Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, and about one-third (31 percent) say theyll vote for Republican John Cox – but 17 percent still are not sure.
Undecideds also could play a late-breaking role in some of the propositions on Californias ballot.
While a slim majority of Southern California voters (42 percent vs. 40 percent) would reject Prop. 6, which could repeal the states recently enacted gas tax and reduce public road and traffic spending by more than $50 billion over the next decade, that result is far from certain. The poll found that nearly one in five voters (18 percent) said they dont yet know how theyll fall on Prop 6.
Even more people dont know where they stand on rent control.
Though Prop 10 – which would expand the authority of local governments to allow rent control in their jurisdictions – would fail in Southern California, with 37 percent in favor and 43 percent against, a solid 20 percent still dont know how theyll vote.
The poll also broke down opinions based on region.
At 81 percent, voters in Orange County are the most likely to participate in the upcoming midterm, while the numbers were lower in Riverside County (78 percent), San Bernardino County (75 percent) and Los Angeles County (74 percent).
But in all four counties, the numbers suggest potentially off-the-chart levels of participation.
Though midterm voter turnout rate isnt tracked by region, national turnout for a midterm hasnt cracked 50 percent since 1914. In the most recent midterm, in 2014, just 36.7 percent of voting-age Americans cast ballots according to Vital Statistics of American Politics.
The poll also asked voters how they feel government in California is handling key social issues.
Some 40 percent of all voters in the region believe the state isnt doing enough to protect immigrant rights, while 24 percent say the state does too much in that area.
But opinions on the states response to immigrant rights differ across the region.
In Los Angeles County, 40 percent say California doesnt do enough for immigrants while 20 percent say it does too much.
But in Orange and Riverside counties, the gaps are narrower, with 34 percent and 40 percent, respectively, saying the state doesnt do enough to protect immigrant rights, while 30 percent and 29 percent of voters in the counties say the state does too much. In San Bernardino County, 41 percent say the state doesnt do enough versus 27 percent who say it does too much.
On homelessness, 69 percent of Southern California voters said the state isnt doing enough to help keep people from living on the streets, while just 12 percent said the government on the issue is “about right.”
On protecting the environment, the dissatisfaction is less pronounced – 45 percent said the state isnt doing enough while 28 percent said the state is responding to the issue appropriately.
The poll also tried to measure the strength – or lack of it – of party affiliation.
Generally, Southern Californians currently are more closely aligned with the Democratic Party than with the GOP, 49 percent to 25 percent, while 21 percent identify as independent. Orange County (at 35 percent) had the most Republicans, while Los Angeles (at 53 percent) had the most Democrats, according to the poll.
The poll found that the strength of party affiliation also might favor Democrats.
Among the voters in all four counties who identify as Democrats, 65 percent said described that link as “strong,” compared with 34 percent who said they are “not very strong” Democrats.
For Republican voters in the region, 55 percent said they are “strong” members of the party while 42 percent said they arent.
The poll also found that interest in politics – across all voters in all parties and in all four counties – is pretty strong.
More than 60 percent of respondents in the region said they always or usually pay attention to government and political issues. Meanwhile, a tiny fraction – just 4 percent – said they never track political news.
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