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Many Democrats Vote Against Davis and for a Republican

Times Staff Writer

Dissatisfied Democrats showed their displeasure with Gov. Gray Davis on Tuesday, with about a quarter each breaking ranks to vote for the recall and for a Republican candidate to replace him, according to a Times exit poll.

Despite the governor’s efforts to rally Democrats to his side, a quarter of liberals and at least 3 in 10 moderate Democrats voted “yes” on the recall, according to the survey of voters. Members of traditional Democratic constituencies -- such as union members and Latinos -- voted against the recall, but not in overwhelming numbers.

The widespread defection came as nearly 3 in 4 voters said California was on the wrong track.

Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger had a strong showing across the political spectrum, picking up nearly a fifth of Democratic voters, more than 4 in 10 independents and 69% of conservative voters.

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Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante collected just under two-thirds of liberal voters, but won fewer than 3 in 10 independents and a small fraction of Republicans. He also garnered slightly less than 60% of the Latino vote -- a smaller share than his campaign had hoped to win.

The exit poll, supervised by Times Poll Director Susan Pinkus, was based on interviews with 5,205 voters from 74 precincts around the state. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.

People who made up their minds about the election in the last few days -- when the campaign was dominated by allegations of sexual impropriety by Schwarzenegger -- voted mainly for the recall.

Though men voted for the recall by a decisive margin, women were evenly divided. However, a racial and ethnic split emerged among women voters: Nearly four-fifths of African American women and a majority of Latinas were against the recall, but a majority of white women voted for it.

Davis found his strongest support among African American and Jewish voters.

Tuesday’s electorate was remarkably similar to the one that narrowly reelected Davis to office last November: largely white and male, with smaller numbers of Latino, black and Asian voters.

That demographic breakdown favored Schwarzenegger. More than 8 in 10 of his voters were white, and more than half were men.

Schwarzenegger, who attempted to rally support among Californians who have not participated in the political process, appeared to gain the most from first-time voters. Nearly half of them supported him, and nearly 3 out of 5 voted for the recall.

Among all voters surveyed, a majority in every age group voted for Davis’ recall.

Schwarzenegger sought to win the votes of his youthful moviegoing audience, but 18- to 29-year-olds were the least supportive of him, making up only 11% of his backers. Unlike voters in other age brackets, who backed Schwarzenegger over Bustamante by strong margins, young people favored him more narrowly.

Those who did vote for Schwarzenegger were staunchly committed to him. Almost 60% of them said their preference for their candidate was very strong, compared with 50% of those who voted for state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) and 34% of Bustamante voters.

Bustamante had the most diverse pool of supporters among the top candidates to replace Davis. One in 10 of his voters were black, 20% Latino and 5% Asian. Schwarzenegger and McClintock, on the other hand, had predominantly white supporters.

Though the lieutenant governor focused much of his campaign on Latinos, about 3 in 10 Latino voters threw their support to Schwarzenegger.

Bustamante’s efforts to woo blue-collar support did not appear to pay off either. He beat Schwarzenegger by just nine points among union members, while voters who earn less than $40,000 a year were split evenly between the two.

And Bustamante’s standing as the only prominent Democrat on the ballot did not deliver him unified Democratic support: Fewer than 2 in 3 backed the lieutenant governor.

Meanwhile, McClintock, who made a strong appeal to the right wing of the GOP, won support from only about a fifth of conservative Republican voters.

Some Democrats crossed party lines to support the state senator, making up nearly a quarter of his voters -- the majority of them Democratic women.

Both Democrats and Republicans who voted for the recall cited as their top reason their perception that Davis had mismanaged the state. They also criticized the way he handled the state’s energy crisis and financial problems.

Recall opponents said their main reason for voting against it was their belief that the governor was elected fairly, followed by a perception that Republicans wanted to gain power and push a conservative agenda.

The exit poll results highlighted a persistent political split in California. Orange County overwhelmingly backed the recall, the measure received divided support in Los Angeles County and went down to a strong defeat in the Bay Area, the only region where a majority voted to keep Davis in office.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

What the voters said

Q: If you voted to recall Gov. Davis, why?+

All voters

Mismanaged the state: 64%

Handling of the energy crisis: 31%

Budget crisis: 22%

Schwarzenegger voters

Mismanaged the state: 66%

Handling of the energy crisis: 32%

Budget crisis: 23%

Bustamante voters

Mismanaged the state: 43%

Handling of the energy crisis: 31%

Budget crisis: 26%

McClintock voters

Mismanaged the state: 58%

Handling of the energy crisis: 30%

Budget crisis: 21%

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Q: If you voted not to recall Gov. Davis, why?+

All voters

Davis was elected fairly: 55%

Unpopularity is no reason to recall a governor: 22%

GOP/conservative power grab: 22%

Schwarzenegger voters

Davis was elected fairly: 54%

Unpopularity is no reason to recall a governor: 26%

Special election too expensive: 23%

Bustamante voters

Davis was elected fairly: 55%

GOP/conservative power grab: 26%

Unpopularity is no reason to recall a governor: 22%

McClintock voters

Davis was elected fairly: 58%

Unpopularity is no reason to recall a governor: 23%

Special election too expensive: 23%

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Q: Those who decided whether to recall Gov. Davis . . .

Before last weekend

Voted for recall: 56%

Voted against recall: 44%

Last weekend or later

Voted for recall: 51%

Voted against recall: 49%

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Q: Those who decided which candidate to vote for . . .

*--* Voted for Before last weekend Last weekend or later Schwarzenegger 50% 38% Bustamante 32% 34% McClintock 13% 16% Other 5% 12%

*--*

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Q: How confident are you that whoever is the governor after the recall election will be able to fix most of California’s problems?

*--* All Schwarzenegger Bustamante McClintock voters voters voters voters

Confident 57% 79% 36% 57% Not confident 43% 21% 64% 43%

*--*

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Q: What was the most important reason you came out to vote today?

*--* Schwar- Bus- McClin- All zenegger tamante tock voters voters voters voters To vote to recall Davis 46% 85% 5% 55% To vote against the recall 43% 5% 87% 26% To vote for a specific candidate 8% 8% 4% 16% To vote on Prop. 53 1% 1% 1% 1% To vote on Prop. 54 2% 1% 3% 2%

*--*

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Q: When you make up your mind about which candidate to vote for in an election, which is the most important to you?

*--* Schwar- Bus- McClin- All zenegger tamante tock voters voters voters voters The candidate’s character and 32% 38% 27% 38% leadership Where the candidate stands on the 51% 44% 60% 44% issues He or she shares my values 14% 14% 11% 18% He or she can win 3% 4% 2% - %

*--*

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Q: Things in California are...

*--* Schwar- Bus- McClin- All zenegger tamante tock voters voters voters voters Going in the right direction 28% 8% 58% 15% Seriously off on the wrong track 72% 92% 42% 85%

*--*

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Q: California’s economy these days is doing...

*--* Schwar- Bus- McClin- All zenegger tamante tock voters voters voters voters Very well 2% - % 4% 1% Fairly well 25% 16% 37% 20% Fairly badly 49% 51% 46% 52% Very badly 24% 33% 13% 27%

*--*

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Q: How easy or difficult was it to find your candidate on the ballot?

Very easy: 57%

Somewhat easy: 24%

Somewhat difficult: 14%

Very difficult: 5%

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Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Gray Davis is handling his job as governor?

Approve: 26%

Disapprove: 74%

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+Top three mentions in multiple-response questions

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Notes: Based on preliminary exit poll results. ' - ' indicates less than 0.5%. Numbers may not total 100% where multiple responses were accepted or some answer categories are not shown.

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Times Poll results are also available at www.latimes.com/timespoll.

How the poll was conducted: The Times Poll interviewed 5,205 voters as they left 74 polling places across California during voting hours Tuesday. Precincts were chosen based on the pattern of turnout in past statewide elections. The survey was by a confidential, self-administered questionnaire in English and Spanish. The margin of sampling error for percentages based on the entire sample is plus or minus 2 percentage points; for some subgroups the error margin may be higher. Because the survey does not include absentee voters or those who declined to participate when approached, the sample was adjusted slightly using absentee estimates, actual returns and demographic estimates by the interviewers. Interviews at the precinct level were conducted by Davis Research of Calabasas.


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