THE TIMES POLL : Anglo Vote Carried Riordan to Victory : Survey: Exit poll shows racial divisions of primary also were a factor in runoff. Results indicate that the new mayor may have a tough task ahead.
Richard Riordan was elected mayor of Los Angeles by scoring a landslide victory in the heavily Anglo San Fernando Valley, winning over moderate Democrats and benefiting from a lackluster turnout among minority voters, a Los Angeles Times exit poll shows.
Although Riordan and his opponent, City Councilman Michael Woo, both had pledged to reach out to all segments of Los Angeles, the poll showed the same kinds of deep racial divisions among voters that characterized the outcome of the primary contest. Eighty-five percent of voters who cast ballots for Riordan were Anglo. While most of Woo’s supporters also were Anglo, he won most of the African-American, Asian-American and Latino votes.
The disparity points to one of the biggest challenges facing Riordan in a city where Anglos dominate the electorate even though they represent a minority of the population.
“Richard Riordan won the election; he has yet to win the city,” said Times Poll Director John Brennan, who directed the survey of 3,402 voters at 50 polling places. The poll had a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Commenting on the problems facing Riordan, Larry Berg, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC said, “He needs to demonstrate to this community that he is going to be mayor for all of the city.”
Riordan made some unexpected political inroads among Latinos, receiving 43% of their vote, up from 20% in the primary. And although Woo sought to portray millionaire Riordan as a ruthless corporate raider, the businessman garnered support that cut across most income groups.
Woo, who came out of the April primary 9 percentage points behind Riordan, failed to make adequate inroads with two groups he needed to turn the election around: those who had voted for other candidates in the primary and those who had skipped the primary.
Riordan got just over half of the votes of those who had supported losing primary candidates, including 53% of those who had voted for Richard Katz and 65% of those who had supported Joel Wachs. Woo managed to attract a majority of supporters of Linda Griego and Stan Sanders, although Sanders had endorsed Riordan.
The poll also showed that Woo, a Democrat, suffered from a low turnout among minority-group voters who constituted his political base.
Woo captured 86% of the black vote. A massive effort by Woo and his supporters to get out the vote in South-Central Los Angeles boosted the number of African-Americans casting ballots, but those additional voters were eclipsed by a larger increase in turnout by Anglos. Ultimately, blacks accounted for only 12% of the vote in Tuesday’s election, down from 18% in the April primary. Anglos accounted for 72% of all voters Tuesday.
In the South-Central-based 8th and 9th City Council districts--where Woo did best, winning more than 80% of the vote--turnout was below 35%. Turnout was 50% in the North San Fernando Valley’s 12th District, which Riordan carried, 75% to 25%. It was 48% in the West Valley’s 3rd District, which went for Riordan 71% to 29%. One in seven of those voting Tuesday had not voted in the primary and those voters went for Riordan by a 55% to 45% margin, giving him extra padding on his already formidable primary advantage. Of those new voters, 72% were Anglo and just 9% were black.
“The black community was suspicious of Mr. Riordan,” said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), who did not endorse either candidate.
“The overall black community has been suffering for quite some time now. You have a city that went up in flames. A year and a half later, no real response to it. They don’t really believe what anybody is saying anymore. They’re not concerned very much about people who they see for the first time when they’re campaigning. . . . So they just turn off.”
Woo substantially improved his share of the Jewish vote he won in the primary, but in the end he only split their votes with Riordan and was unable to offset his almost 4-1 loss among Anglo Protestants and Anglo Catholics.
The poll also indicated that the coalition of blacks, liberals and Jewish voters that kept Mayor Tom Bradley in office for 20 years may be a thing of the past. Two in five voters who backed Bradley four years ago voted for Riordan.
Riordan’s most striking victory came in the vote-rich San Fernando Valley, where he defeated Woo by almost 2 1/2 to 1. The Valley accounts for 44% of the city’s vote.
He also managed to attract the vast majority of moderate and independent voters despite Woo’s characterization of him as a throwback to Reaganomics. In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by better than 2 to 1 and where Bill Clinton, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer garnered more than 60% of the vote, Republican Riordan captured nine out of every 10 GOP voters and stole two in five Democratic voters from Woo.
Riordan also beat Woo on the city’s Westside, 55% to 45%.
Although Riordan lost Latinos and Asian-Americans to Woo, the businessman made notable gains with these groups, capturing more than two-fifths of the Latino vote and 31% of the tiny Asian-American vote. Latinos were 10% of all voters, a slightly higher proportion than in April.
Miguel Santana, community affairs representative of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said Latino voting was split because the Latino community leadership was divided. Prominent Latino elected officials such as Supervisor Gloria Molina and state Sen. Art Torres supported Woo, but City Councilman Richard Alatorre sided with Riordan. “That allowed people to look at the issues independently,” said Santana.
While the election reflected racial polarization, the poll did not show sharp class divisions. Riordan, although attacked as a callous businessman, was supported by more than half of the union members voting. He also was supported by a majority of voters from households with incomes of $20,000 a year or more. Among Anglos, he won all income groups.
Times staff writer Frederick Muir and assistant poll director Susan Pinkus contributed to this article.
How the Poll Was Conducted
The Times Poll interviewed 3,402 voters as they left 50 polling places across Los Angeles during voting hours. Precincts were chosen based on the pattern of turnout in past municipal elections. The survey was by confidential questionnaire. The margin of sampling error for percentages based on the entire sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points. For some subgroups the error margin may be somewhat higher. Because the survey does not include absentee voters or those who declined to participate when approached, actual returns and demographic estimates by the interviewers were used to adjust the sample slightly.
THE TIMES POLL: How They Voted
The chart below shows the demographic makeup of those who voted in Tuesday’s mayoral runoff and what percentage of each group backed Richard Riordan and Michael Woo. Figures from the April 20 primary are shown for comparison.
JUNE APRIL JUNE APRIL RUNOFF PRIMARY RUNOFF PRIMARY % of % of % WHO VOTED FOR: % WHO VOTED FOR: VOTERS VOTERS RIORDAN WOO RIORDAN WHO ARE WHO ARE GENDER 50% 49% Male 58% 42% 38% 50% 51% Female 50% 50% 31% RACE/ETHNICITY 72% 68% Anglo 67% 33% 45% 12% 18% Black 14% 86% 4% 10% 8% Latino 43% 57% 20% 4% 4% Asian 31% 69% 21% AGE 11% 11% 18-29 49% 51% 25% 42% 40% 30-49 54% 46% 32% 23% 24% 50-64 63% 37% 38% 24% 25% 65 and up 57% 43% 37% IDEOLOGY 30% 29% Liberal 27% 73% 8% 43% 42% Moderate 63% 37% 31% 27% 29% Conservative 79% 21% 65% 22% 19% Anglo liberal 31% 69% 11% 31% 28% Anglo moderate 75% 25% 42% 20% 22% Anglo 92% 8% 78% conservative PARTY 63% 62% Democrat 39% 61% 15% 6% 5% Independent 70% 30% 39% 30% 32% Republican 91% 9% 71% INCOME 14% 17% Under $20,000 42% 58% 17% 25% 25% $20,000-$39,999 52% 48% 26% 22% 24% $40,000-$59,999 60% 40% 36% 39% 34% $60,000 or more 62% 38% 46% RELIGION 39% 41% Protestant 63% 37% 39% 24% 23% Roman Catholic 63% 37% 44% 19% 16% Jewish 49% 51% 21% 28% 26% Anglo Protestant 80% 20% 56% 14% 15% Anglo Catholic 78% 22% 61% RESIDENCE 63% 64% Homeowner 64% 36% 41% 33% 33% Renter 42% 58% 19% APRIL PRIMARY VOTE 31% 33% For Riordan 98% 2% NA 22% 24% For Woo 6% 94% NA 33% 43% For someone else 52% 48% NA 14% NA Didn’t vote 55% 45% NA UNION MEMBER* 32% 32% Yes 49% 51% 31% 68% 68% No 61% 39% 36% SEXUAL ORIENTATION 5% 5% Gay/Lesbian 28% 72% 11% LOCATION 18% 16% Westside 55% 45% 39% 44% 43% S.F. Valley 71% 29% 42% 21% 20% Central L.A. 40% 60% 27% 17% 21% South L.A. 27% 73% 15%
APRIL PRIMARY % WHO VOTED FOR: WOO
23% 24% 13% 52% 30% 60% 30% 26% 21% 20% 37% 23% 9% 30% 11% 2% 33% 20% 6% 33% 30% 21% 17% 24% 21% 14% 10% 12% 18% 34% NA NA NA NA 25% 22% 36% 24% 12% 30% 45%
NOTE: Some numbers from the primary do not add to 100% because not all responses are shown.
NA indicates no comparison is possible.
*Indicates whether anyone in household belongs to a union.
SOURCE: L.A. Times exit polls taken April 20 and June 8. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for both polls; for subgroups the error margin may be somewhat higher.