Bustamante Has Big Lead on Schwarzenegger

Times Staff Writer

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante holds a wide lead over Arnold Schwarzenegger in the race to succeed Gov. Gray Davis, according to a new Los Angeles Times poll, which finds the Republican vote splintered among several GOP contenders.

As the sole major Democrat running to replace Davis -- should the incumbent be ousted Oct. 7 -- Bustamante enjoys the support of 35% of likely voters, the poll found.

Schwarzenegger received the support of 22%, followed by three fellow Republicans: state Sen. Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks with 12%, businessman Peter V. Ueberroth with 7% and Bill Simon Jr. -- the GOP’s 2002 gubernatorial nominee -- with 6%.

Simon abruptly quit the race Saturday, after the poll was completed. He said that “there are too many Republicans” running and expressed concern that his candidacy would undercut GOP efforts to oust Davis and replace the Democrat with one of their own.


Simon’s earlier failure to beat Davis apparently took a toll on his repeat run; nearly one in five likely voters said they would be less likely to support Simon because of last year’s loss.

Three other gubernatorial contenders who have won prominent mention lag far behind the major-party hopefuls, according to the poll. Arianna Huffington, who is running a nonpartisan campaign, received the support of just 3% of likely voters, and the Green Party’s Peter Camejo drew 1%, tying him with Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt.

Under the idiosyncratic rules that govern the recall vote, all 135 candidates from assorted parties or no party are listed on the same ballot. The candidate who gets the most votes will become governor -- if Davis is kicked out, which will be the first issue on the ballot.

The poll, completed Thursday night, found that 50% of likely voters favored recalling Davis and 45% were opposed, with 5% undecided.

But the contest remains unsettled, and polling is a particular challenge in this environment, given the special nature of the election and the way the campaign has been collapsed into a relatively brief, two-month time frame. California has never before witnessed a gubernatorial recall election. Voter turnout will be critical to the outcome, yet it is difficult to predict who will cast ballots. The figures in the Times poll assume a disproportionately high Republican turnout.

The poll suggested a great deal of fluidity: Although views on the recall effort itself were quite fixed, 46% of likely voters said they could change their minds about whom to support between now and Oct. 7.

Democrats were more certain of their candidate choices, with six in 10 saying they had definitely made up their minds, compared with 46% of the likely Republican voters.

Despite the smorgasbord of gubernatorial hopefuls, likely voters do not appear terribly enamored of their options. Of the leading contenders to replace Davis, only Bustamante and Ueberroth are seen in a largely positive light, though just half of likely voters indicated that they knew enough about Ueberroth to make a decision. Others were even less known or, in the case of Flynt, Huffington and Simon, seen in mostly negative terms.


Schwarzenegger has a mixed image among likely voters, with 46% saying they have a favorable impression of him and 44% an unfavorable one.

Much of his campaign strategy is based on his cross-over appeal to non-Republican voters, given his comparatively moderate positions on issues such as gun control, abortion and gay rights. But less than two weeks into his first run for elected office, Schwarzenegger has already become a politically polarizing figure.

Roughly seven in 10 likely Democratic voters have an unfavorable impression of the action-movie star, while the same number of likely Republican voters expressed a favorable view.

The actor won the support of 39% of likely Republican voters, 20% of independents and 7% of Democrats polled. McClintock received 21% of the Republican respondents’ backing, Simon got 12% and Ueberroth 10%.


Overall, 50% of likely voters see Schwarzenegger as a political moderate. Twenty-seven percent view him as a conservative and 11% as a liberal; the remainder were not certain or declined to say.

The Times Poll, directed by Susan Pinkus, interviewed 1,351 registered voters between Aug. 16 and Aug. 21. Among them were 801 voters deemed likely to cast ballots in the recall election. The margin of sampling error for likely voters is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The survey suggested that, for all the novelty of the campaign and the unconventional backgrounds of many of those running, no candidate has yet captured the imagination of California voters.

Bustamante, serving his second term as lieutenant governor, is vying to become the first Latino elected California’s governor in modern times. He is pursuing a dual strategy, urging a “no” vote on the recall question but asking voters to support him in the event that Davis is thrown out of office.


Asked if Bustamante’s candidacy made them more likely to go to the polls Oct. 7, an overwhelmingly majority of likely voters -- including Democrats -- said it did not. Even his fellow Latinos were not dramatically more inspired: 75% said Bustamante’s running made them no more likely to take part in the recall vote.

Overall, the lieutenant governor was chosen by 65% of the Democratic respondents, one in five independent voters and 8% of Republicans.

Fifty-one percent of likely Latino voters surveyed backed Bustamante, 13% chose McClintock and 12% favored Schwarzenegger.

Among union members, a crucial part of the Democratic Party base, Bustamante was receiving 39% support, with Schwarzenegger at 18% and McClintock at 15%.


For all the star power the actor brings to the race, Schwarzenegger -- like Bustamante -- has not made voters notably more inclined to take part in the election. About seven in 10 likely voters surveyed said the movie star’s run made no difference in their intentions to vote, a finding that was constant across party lines, regardless of political philosophy.

The poll suggested that Schwarzenegger, who launched the first paid advertising of the recall campaign Wednesday, still has a selling job to do with many voters who doubt his credibility as a potential governor.

While a little more than half -- 56% -- of likely voters said they believed that the first-time candidate knew “some” or “a lot” about the issues facing California, more than a third -- 36% -- said he didn’t know much at all about such issues.

One such skeptic was Linda Lackey, a 55-year-old insurance agent in Downey.


“He may care about certain things, he may care about children and stuff, but he really has no background in this type of thing,” she said in a follow-up interview. “And he’s very quiet about what he actually thinks and what he plans on doing. He doesn’t put his ideas out well.”

Lackey, a Republican, said she was leaning toward the more conservative McClintock. “He’s in government already and seems knowledgeable,” she said.

Schwarzenegger has made his political-newcomer status a central part of his campaign, vowing to “clean house” in Sacramento if elected.

But that promise is met with widespread skepticism: Nearly six in 10 likely voters predicted “politics as usual” if Schwarzenegger became governor, while just about a third said they expected that he could rein in the power of “special interest groups.”


Former Gov. Pete Wilson is a key advisor to Schwarzenegger, having urged him into the recall election and serving as his campaign co-chairman. Many of Wilson’s former aides are involved in the actor’s effort, including Wilson’s ex-chief of staff, advertising consultant and press secretary.

Two weeks ago, Wilson created a stir by revealing Schwarzenegger’s support for Proposition 187, the anti-illegal- immigration initiative pushed by Wilson and passed by voters in 1994. Analysts were split over the potential effect. Some suggested the disclosure would help Schwarzenegger by shoring up his Republican support; others said it would hurt him among Latino voters.

Both assessments appear correct.

Overall, just about half of likely voters said a candidate’s position on Proposition 187 would make no difference in how they voted. But 34% of Republicans said it would make them more likely to support a candidate.


Forty-two percent of Latinos said it would make them less likely. Of that 42%, the overwhelmingly majority opposed efforts to kick Davis out of office.



The candidates


Q: If the election were being held today and these were the candidates, for whom would you vote?

Bustamante -- 35%

Schwarzenegger -- 22%

McClintock -- 12%


Ueberroth -- 7%

Simon -- 6%

Huffington -- 3%

Camejo -- 1%


Flynt -- 1%

Wouldn’t vote -- 4%

Don’t know -- 9%

Among likely voters. Includes those ‘leaning’ toward voting for a candidate.


Source: Times Poll



Vying to replace Gov. Davis


Q: If the election were being held today and these were the candidates, for whom would you vote?(*Includes those ‘leaning’ toward voting for a candidate.)

*--* All likely Demo- Indepen- Repub- Voters crats dents licans Cruz Bustamante 35% 65% 20% 8% Arnold Schwarzenegger 22% 7% 20% 39% Tom McClintock 12% 4% 10% 21% Peter V. Ueberroth 7% 6% 3% 10% Bill Simon Jr 6% -% 4% 12% Arianna Huffington 3% 2% 14% 1% Peter Camejo 1% 2% 5% -% Larry Flynt 1% -% 2% -% Wouldn’t vote 4% 6% 6% 1% Don’t know 9% 8% 16% 8%


Demographic breakdown of those who favor the two frontrunners:


*--* Bustamante Voters Schwarzenegger voters Men 46% 54% Women 54% 46% Whites 54% 76% Blacks 10% 2% Latinos 28% 10% Asians 6% 9% Other 2% 3% Democrats 83% 14% Independents 7% 11% Republicans 10% 75%


Q: Are you more or less motivated to get out and vote on Oct. 7 by the presence on the ballot of:

*--* Bustamante Schwarzenegger More motivated 19% 26% Less motivated 2% 2% No effect 79% 71%



Q: What is your impression of:**

*--* Haven’t heard Favorable Unfavorable enough/Don’t know Bustamante 48% 29% 23% Schwarzenegger 46% 44% 10% Ueberroth 39% 11% 50% McClintock 34% 21% 45% Davis 33% 65% 2% Simon 32% 58% 10% Huffington 23% 49% 28% Flynt 8% 79% 13% Camejo 7% 11% 82%



**Impression questions (except Davis) were asked of half samples.

Q: If you knew one of the replacement candidates had supported Proposition 187, the illegal immigration initiative that passed in 1994, would you be more or less likely to vote for that candidate, or would it not make a difference in your vote?

*--* All likely voters Whites Latinos More likely 19% 22% 9% No difference 49% 48% 45% Less likely 24% 20% 42% Don’t know 8% 10% 4%



Q: How much does Arnold Schwarzenegger know about the issues facing California?

A lot: 18%

Some: 38%

Not much at all: 36%


Don’t know: 8%

Q: Schwarzenegger is:

Moderate: 50%

Conservative: 27%


Liberal: 11%

Don’t know: 12%

Q: One of Schwarzenegger’s campaign promises is to ‘clean house’ in Sacramento. That is, he wants to reduce the influence of special interest groups. Do you think he would be able to reduce the influence of special interest groups, or do you think it would be politics as usual in Sacramento?

Reduce influence: 32%


Politics as usual: 59%

Notes: All results shown are among likely voters. ‘Independents’ includes members of minor parties. Numbers may not total 100% where more than one response was accepted or some answer categories are not shown.

Times Poll results are also available at

How the poll was conducted: The Times Poll contacted 1,351 California registered voters, including 801 voters considered 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 news conferences. Schwarzenegger launched a TV ad campaign, and his meeting of advisors on the California economy was widely covered in the news. 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 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.



Jill Darling Richardson, associate director of the Times Poll, and Claudia Vaughn, the poll’s data management supervisor, contributed to this report.