Poll Analysis: Let the Campaigns Begin

Times Poll Director

There has been an on-going debate in Democratic circles, especially those who are strategizing for the governor, that the right course of action is to campaign to have voters vote against the recall and not to vote for a replacement candidate. This course, as some Democrats are saying, is very risky. The only major Democratic candidate to put his name on the replacement ballot is Cruz Bustamante. The Lt. Gov.’s campaign has been saying to vote no on the recall, but to vote for Bustamante as the replacement candidate. This is just in case the recall goes through, a Democrat would remain at the helm, particularly during the upcoming presidential season. It looks like the Lt. Gov.’s campaign may be working. Democratic likely voters seem to be lining up behind Bustamante while Republicans are splitting their votes among the four major Republican candidates.

The first part of the ballot will be the yes or no vote to recall Governor Davis and according to a new Los Angeles Times Poll, the race has tightened. If the election were being held today, 50% of likely voters would vote for the recall and 45% would vote against it, with 5% undecided.

The Second Part of the Recall Ballot

The second part of the ballot is to cast a vote for a replacement candidate. The ballot is still confusing to voters. Although two-thirds of likely voters understand that even if you vote no on the recall question or didn’t vote at all, you can still vote for a candidate to replace the governor, a third of the voters still don’t understand the process.

If the election were held today, here is how the vote would look:

•  Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, Democrat 35%

• Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republican 22%

• State Senator Tom McClintock, Republican 12%

• Businessman Peter Ueberroth, Republican 7%(although he says he will run as an independent)

• Businessman Bill Simon, Republican 6%

• Author/Columnist Arianna Huffington, an independent 3%

• Financial Investor Advisor Peter Miguel Camejo, 1%,Green Party candidate

•  Publisher Larry Flynt, Democrat 1%

•  Would Not Vote 4%

•  Undecided 9%

Arnold Schwarzenegger started running his TV ads and introducing his economic advisors during the last two days of polling and the survey shows that in the last two days of interviewing, there was an uptick in votes for Schwarzenegger.

Two thirds of likely Democratic voters say they would vote for Bustamante as do 64% of liberal voters and 74% of liberal Democrats. Only 51% of Latino likely voters would vote for the Lt. Gov. Unions members are not overly enthused about Bustamante — 39% of union members would vote for him. Nearly three out of five Democrats who voted no on the recall also voted for Bustamante. Likely Republican voters have splintered their vote in support of the four major GOP candidates — 39% of Republicans would vote for Schwarzenegger, 21% for McClintock, 12% for Simon, and 10% for Ueberroth. More than two out of five conservative Republicans would vote for Schwarzenegger, 28% for McClintock and 14% for Simon. More than a third of moderate Republican voters would support Schwarzenegger and surprisingly, a quarter would vote for Bustamante, the sole major Democrat.

Republicans make up about 35% of the registered voters in the state, while Democrats make up 45% of registered voters. However, the Times Poll suggests a disproportionate number of Republican voters are likely to actually take part in the recall election — 43% of the turnout, with Democrats making up 45%. This recall hinges on the voters who decide to vote.

During the poll’s snapshot in time, Bustamante voters are more certain about their vote than voters for the other candidates tested. Two-thirds of the Lt. Gov.’s voters definitely will vote for him, compared to 54% of Schwarzenegger’s voters. Although four out of five likely voters suggest that having Bustamante running as the only Democratic candidate does not affect their getting out to vote on October 7th, nearly a fifth say that fact motivates them to get out to vote, including more than a fifth of Democrats. And among these likely Democratic voters who are motivated to vote , 79% would vote for the Lt. Gov. (and 79% would vote no on the recall). Among all likely voters motivated to get out to vote, 46% would vote for the Lt. Gov. and another 47% would vote no on the recall (but 48% would vote yes).

Arnold Schwarzenegger has basically the same effect on voters as Cruz Bustamante. More than seven out of 10 likely voters say that having the actor on the ballot does not affect their vote one way or the other, but slightly more than a quarter says it motivates them to get out to vote, including 25% of Republicans. Among likely Republican voters who are energized to vote because Schwarzenegger is on the ballot, nearly three out of five of them would vote for the actor and another 89% would vote for the recall.

Recall and the Candidates

Proposition 187, the illegal immigrant initiative that passed in 1994 is a controversial measure for Latinos and other minorities. It passed by 59% to 41%, but Latinos overwhelmingly voted against it. This measure is equated with former Governor Pete Wilson and his Republican administration who favored the measure. It spurred Latinos and Asians to become citizens, in order to register to vote which increased their share of the electorate. Whenever Democrats want to put Republicans on the defensive, they attach Wilson’s name to a campaign as a rallying cry to energize Latinos and other minority groups. So it may be somewhat problematic for Schwarzenegger to be associated with Wilson and some of his campaign consultants. Although nearly half of all likely voters say it doesn’t make a difference in their vote one way or the other if one of the candidates supported this proposition, 24% say it would make them less likely to vote for that candidate and 19% say it would make them more likely. However, 42% of Latinos say they are less likely to vote for a candidate that endorsed Prop 187 and 66% of this group would also vote against the recall.

As of Saturday (Aug. 23) Bill Simon announced that he is dropping out of the race for governor to replace Gray Davis. In the Times poll, more than seven out of 10 likely voters say that knowing that Simon ran against Davis in the Nov. 2002 gubernatorial election and lost would not make a difference in their vote. About a fifth of likely voters say it would make them less likely to vote for him. Almost eight out of ten Republicans say it would not make a difference, as do 73% of conservatives. Less than one in 10 likely voters say it would make them more likely to vote for the former Republican gubernatorial candidate, including just 11% of Republicans.

Turning now to Arnold Schwarzenegger who has generated the most media attention since announcing his candidacy. Half of the likely voters think Schwarzenegger is a moderate, including 58% of Republicans. Just more than one in 10 likely voters think he is liberal, including 14% of Republicans. Roughly three in 10 likely voters think the actor is a conservative, including 17% of Republicans. Less than one in five likely voters think Schwarzenegger knows a lot about the issues facing California, 38% think he knows some things about the state and 36% don’t think he knows much at all. Among those who think Schwarzenegger knows a lot about the state’s problem, 57% would vote for the actor if the election were held today.

Impressions of Gov. Davis and the Candidates

Governor Davis’ favorability rating is slightly better than his job approval rating, but both are pretty poor. About a quarter of likely voters approve of the way the governor is handling his job, while more than seven in 10 disapprove. Among those who disapprove of the governor’s job performance, 69% would vote to recall him, while 25% would not. A third of likely voters have a favorable impression of the governor, while almost two-thirds have an unfavorable impression. More than six out of ten liberal Democrats likely to vote have a favorable impression of the governor, while moderate Democrats are split — 49% favorable to 47% unfavorable.

Favorable* Unfavorable Not aware/Don’t know

Cruz Bustamante 48% 29% 23%

Arnold Schwarzenegger 46% 44% 10%

Peter Ueberroth 39% 11% 50%

Tom McClintock 34% 21% 45%

Bill Simon 32% 58% 10%

Arianna Huffington 23% 49% 28%

Larry Flynt 8% 79% 13%

Peter Camejo 7% 11% 82%

*The impression questions were in split samples. Half of the respondents were asked about Huffington, Camejo, McClintock, and Ueberroth, while the other half were asked about Bustamante, Schwarzenegger, Simon and Flynt. The questions were rotated within each split sample.

One of Schwarzenegger’s campaign themes is that he is not beholden to special interests, he has enough money so that he can’t be bought. He is only interested in serving the people. He says he wants to “clean house” and reduce the influence of special interests in the state capitol. Do people believe he can accomplish this? No. Almost six out of ten likely voters think it will be politics as usual no matter how sincere Schwarzenegger is.

How the Poll Was Conducted

The Times Poll contacted 1,351 California registered voters, including 801 voters deemed likely to vote, by telephone Aug. 16–21. The margin of sampling error for both registered and likely voters is plus or minus 3 percentage points. To allow for analysis, the main sample was supplemented to provide a total of 125 Latino likely voters (margin of sampling error +/– 9 percentage points) and the samples were weighted to their state proportions.

Poll results can be affected by factors such as question wording and the order in which questions are presented. Surveys conducted during busy campaign seasons are also subject to influence by news events. Several such events took place during this survey period. Davis, Schwarzenegger, Ueberroth and Bustamante held press conferences. Schwarzenegger launched a TV ad campaign and his "economic summit" on the topic of the California economy was widely covered in the news. While the survey was not designed to track shifts in public perception on a daily basis, it did pick up movement toward increased support for the recall as well as increased support for Schwarzenegger's candidacy in the last two days.

Telephone numbers for all samples were randomly selected from a list of all exchanges in the state, which allows all residents equal chance of being contacted without regard to listed or unlisted numbers or their presence on registered voter lists. The entire sample was weighted slightly to conform with census figures for sex, race, age and education and with registration figures provided by the secretary of state. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. All racial and ethnic groups are proportionally represented in this survey, even though there may not be enough in the sample to be specifically mentioned.

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