Poll Analysis: Secession Fever Waning

Times Staff Writer

Voters in Los Angeles are saying no to both San Fernando Valley and Hollywood secession. With just abut three weeks to go before the election, voters citywide are solidly against the notion of the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood seceding from Los Angeles, according to a new Los Angeles Times Poll. Even in the San Fernando Valley, the tide seems to be turning against voting for Valley secession. Hollywood secession is also losing handily -- 21% for secession and 60% against it.

San Fernando Valley Secession

After reading the ballot summary of Proposition F, the San Fernando Valley secession initiative, to all likely voters citywide, 56% say they would vote against the Valley seceding, while 27% would vote for it. Seventeen percent haven't heard enough about it to make an informed opinion or were undecided.

Still, separating the Valley from the rest of Los Angeles, the spread between the vote for and against secession grows larger. Almost a fifth (18%) of non-Valley city likely voters would vote for Valley secession, while 62% would give a thumbs down to this measure.

Valley voters

Among Valley likely voters, 42% are supporting the measure and 47% are voting against it, with 11% undecided. ( The margin of sampling error for the Valley is plus or minus 5 percentage points, therefore, the results are within margin of error). However, the East and West Valley split is showing disparate views of opinion about secession. The East San Fernando Valley (where it is more Latino, Democratic and economically downscale) is not supporting secession. The measure is losing by 18 points (36% for, 54% against), while the West Valley, where the movement to secede started, shows it struggling -- 46% in favor of secession, 42% against it.

It appears that the frustration or anger by Valley voters against city government has softened. This may be because likely voters in the Valley think things are going well in the city, including those voters in the West Valley. Among Valley likely voters, Mayor Hahn receives a big thumbs up for his job performance (56%), including 61% of East Valley voters and 53% of West Valley voters. They also heartily support the appointment of William Bratton as the next chief of the LAPD. Another reason that enthusiasm for secession may be dwindling is that most likely voters believe city services have either stayed the same or gotten better. Relatively few likely voters (in the Valley or citywide) believe basic city services in their area have gotten worse. In fact, 28% of those likely voters living in the West Valley and 17% of East Valley voters believe things have gotten better.

Surprisingly, about half (49%) of all Valley likely voters agree with the current law that says in order for an area to break away from the city of LA it must be approved by both a majority of voters citywide and a majority of voters in each of the breakaway areas, while 46% disagree with the current law and believe that only the area that wants to break away should be required only to get approval from voters. (Nearly three out of five East Valley voters and 44% of West Valley voters also agree with the current law.)

The anti-secession movement's focused message about higher costs and more taxes has resonated with likely voters, the survey found. When likely voters in the Valley were asked why they are voting against secession. 18% mentioned loss of tax revenues/taxes will increase and 15% cited higher costs all around. The anti-secession ads started on the fourth day of the poll, the first day of Hahn's campaign airing television spots. Comparing the data by days -- the ads did what it set out to do initially -- turn the Valley voters more against secession. It leveled off, but to a virtual split in the vote.

The older Valley likely voters (65 and over) are against secession (55%) compared to 32% who are for it. Those between the ages 45 and 64 are split, roughly at 42% each. Usually the older voter is a more reliable voter. The elderly do come out to vote and they are worried about some of the issues the anti-secessionists are promoting -- taxes and higher costs.

There is a gender gap on secession among voters living in the Valley. The share of women voting against secession (55%), is nearly the same as the share of men voting for it (52%). Nearly three out of five Valley Democratic likely voters are not voting for the secession measure, while virtually the same share of Republican likely voters are voting for it. Almost half of white likely voters in the Valley support the secession measure, but a large majority of Latinos voters are against it. (However, white men likely to vote in the Valley are solidly backing the measure (60%) compared to 45% of white women who are against it (38% are for secession) Jewish likely voters, whether in the Valley or city overall, are voting against the initiative.

However, those who are voting for Valley secession cite they want smaller government (27%), a fair return on taxes paid (25%), better access to city services (23%) and more local control over government (18%).

Besides the two ballot measures on secession this election, there is a list of 10 candidates running for the new position of mayor of the San Fernando Valley if Proposition F passes. No one knows any of these candidates. A huge 68% of Valley likely voters were undecided in their choice for mayor. But 13% say they would vote for California State Assemblyman Keith Stuart Richman and 5% for Insurance Adjuster David Raymond Hernandez, Jr. The other candidates each received less than 5% of the vote.

Voters citywide

All demographic groups citywide are voting against the San Fernando Valley secession, with some small exceptions. Republican likely voters are split over Valley secession -- 42% would support it, while 43% would oppose it. GOP male likely voters are leaning toward "yes" on secession (49% for-42% against), while GOP women likely voters are not supporting this measure (33% for-44% against). Also, conservative Republicans are voting against secession (44%), while 39% are behind it.

Some issues affecting secession

When likely voters were asked which section(s) of the city are receiving their fair share of city services and attention, or were some sections receiving less than their fair share, 14% of all likely voters thought all sections were sharing equally in city services. However, 23% of likely voters thought South Central LA was not being treated fairly by the city and 21% thought the Valley was being bypassed by some services. Yet, among those living in the Valley, nearly half thought their area did not receive their fair share. Those Valley voters who think they are not getting their fair share from the city are voting for secession 51% to 40% against it. Not surprisingly, when Valley likely voters are removed from the city sample, just 4% of likely voters in the rest of LA think the Valley is being treated unfairly.

The anti-secession movement drove home a couple of issues that are uppermost in some voters' minds. One of them is minimum wage for companies doing business with the city. As it stands now, the city of LA sets a higher minimum wage than the state and federal governments. There is the possibility that this current law would not continue in the new breakaway cities. Nearly 3 out of five likely voters say that this possibility would have no affect on their vote in November, but more than three times more voters say it would make them less likely to vote for the measure than more likely (28% to 8%). A quarter of Valley likely voters say it would make them less likely (the same number in both East and West Valley).

Another group that opposes secession is the city employee union. The union is afraid that jobs will be lost. Many Latinos belong to the union. About a fifth of likely voters say that opposition by city unions would make them less likely to vote for Prop F, while 13% say it would make them more likely and 63% say it would have no effect. In the Valley, the vote is split -- 18% each say more or less likely.

Citywide, 35% of likely Latino voters say they would be less likely to vote for secession because of the minimum wage issue and another third would be less likely to vote for secession because the unions are opposed to it. In the Valley the share of Latinos who would be less likely to vote for secession because of these two issues is somewhat larger than the share of Latinos citywide.

Hollywood Secession

There are no demographic groups supporting Proposition H, the Hollywood secession initiative. The likely voters living in the central part of the city (which includes Hollywood) is adamantly opposed to secession. Sixty-five percent of these voters would vote against Proposition H and 20% would support the measure. Nearly half of Republican likely voters would also vote against this part of the city seceding.

Mayor Hahn's Job Approval

Fifty-four percent of Los Angeles residents citywide, and nearly the same proportion of registered voters, now say they approve of the job that James K. Hahn is doing as mayor, while 22% overall disapprove, according to the latest Los Angeles Times poll. Hahn recently nominated William J. Bratton to be the city's new chief of police, and a majority of Angelenos overall support that decision, although African Americans do not.

For the first time since Hahn took office last year, a Times Poll survey has found the mayor's job approval rating climbing over 50%. The first time the Poll measured the mayor's job approval was in March of 2002, after Hahn made controversial headlines by openly opposing the re-nomination of then-police-chief Bernard Parks. That survey showed that the mayor's move against Parks earned him the enmity of some of the city's black residents, a community which formed a strong part of the coalition that boosted the mayor into office over his closest rival Antonio Villaraigosa in last year's city election.

Approval of the mayor has been rising in the black community, from a low of 30% measured by the Times Poll in March 2002, to 32% in April 2002, to 39% in a survey last June, and finally to 41% today. All of these surveys found higher proportions of blacks who disapproved of the mayor than approved. The current survey continues that trend, with 45% who disapprove.

Among registered black voters in the city, Hahn's rating has gone from 40% approve and 42% disapprove last June to 40% approve vs. 47% disapprove in the current survey. The increase in the level of disapproval may stem from the Mayor's appointment of William J. Bratton as police chief. Bratton's nomination is opposed by four out of 10 African Americans in Los Angeles.

By comparison, Hahn's job rating has increased rather dramatically among other ethnic groups in the city since June. The Mayor's approval rating has increased from 47% to 59% among white residents, from 46% to 55% among Latinos, and from 52% to 62% among Asians. There is majority support for Hahn's nomination of Bratton in those groups.

Nomination of Bratton as LAPD Chief

Overall, 52% of Angelenos approve of the mayor's choice for LAPD chief. Under two in 10 (17%) disapprove, while 26% aren't sure, possibly reserving judgement until they see the new chief in action.

A previous Times Poll survey from April 2002 found that 52% of L.A. residents hoped the next chief would come from within the ranks of LAPD officers. Bratton is an outsider whose previous experience comes from working his way up from a cop on the streets of New York to Police Commissioner of that city.

A plurality of 45% citywide believe that it will be more difficult for a chief hired from outside the force to increase police morale and make any needed changes in the department than it would be for someone who was promoted from within the ranks. Twenty-one percent said they think it will be easier for an outsider and 25% said they didn't think it would make a difference one way or the other. Black residents in particular say it will be more difficult for an outsider to effect change. Nearly six in 10 feel that way, compared to 37% of whites, 49% of Latinos and 45% of Asians.

African Americans oppose Hahn's nomination of Bratton by six percentage points -- 39% to 33%. Latinos, while still giving a majority thumbs-up, are also not quite as thrilled as their white and Asian neighbors with the new chief (who is white.) Nearly six out of 10 white and 56% of Asian residents said they support Hahn's nomination of Bratton as chief, while 52% of Latinos approve of the mayor's choice. Fewer than one in 10 whites oppose Bratton's appointment, along with 11% of Asians and 18% of Latinos. About a quarter across the board aren't sure.

Some of the black community's distrust of Bratton may stem from a bitter aftertaste left by Hahn's outspoken opposition to the renewal of police chief Bernard Parks' contract for another five years. Many black Angelenos felt that Hahn broke a campaign promise with that move. Los Angeles City Council member Nate Holden, the lone dissenting vote on the city council's approval of Bratton, has accused the former New York City police commissioner of using racial profiling in his vaunted clean-up of New York City, a charge Bratton vigorously denies.

Among registered voters, whites approved of the appointment by 61% to 9% (with 26% not sure), and Latinos approve by 51% to 21% with 23% not sure. Black voters oppose Bratton 44% to 31% with 20% not sure. (There are not enough Asian registered voters to break out in this survey.)

Majorities of residents in all areas of the city except the southern region approve of Bratton's nomination, and all by wide margins, with approval around 54% and opposition at or below 11%. In the southern region, which has a large black population, support for the nomination of Bratton as police chief drops to a plurality of 45% with 25% opposed.

As a comparison, in May 1992, the Times Poll asked city residents if the appointment of Willie Williams -- L.A.'s first black police chief -- was a good thing or a bad thing for the city. Two-thirds of the city said it was good vs. 3% who said it was bad. Two in 10 said it didn't make much difference one way or the other. That survey was taken amid the heightened atmosphere of racial concern following the Rodney King trial and the protracted departure of Daryl Gates from the top job at the LAPD.

How the Poll Was Conducted

The Times Poll contacted 2,248 adults in the city of Los Angeles, including 1,546 registered voters, by telephone October 5-14. Among registered voters, 970 are considered likely to vote. The margin of sampling error for the overall city sample is plus or minus 2 percentage points; for registered and likely voters it is 3 points.

To increase the sample size of San Fernando Valley, Latino and African American likely voters, the main sample was supplemented to the following totals:

* 464 likely SFV voters (margin of sampling error +/- 5 percentage points);

* 215 likely Latino voters (+/- 6 points);

* 165 likely African American voters (+/- 8 points).

The samples were then weighted to their proportionate share in the city. Telephone numbers were chosen from a list of all exchanges in the city of Los Angeles. Random-digit dialing techniques were used so that listed and unlisted numbers could be contacted. The entire sample was weighted slightly to conform with census figures for sex, race, age, education, registration and area of city. Poll results can also be affected by other factors such as question wording and the order in which questions are presented. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. Asian Americans were interviewed as part of the entire sample, but there were not enough among likely voters to break out as a separate subgroup.

Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World