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Voters are split on Garcetti. Here’s what that tells us about the race to succeed him

Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks into a microphone
Mayor Eric Garcetti, shown in 2021, is in the final months of his tenure. A new poll finds voters split on his performance.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)
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Voters in Los Angeles are evenly divided on Mayor Eric Garcetti’s performance, according to a new poll — a finding that may yield insights into the race to succeed him.

The UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by The Times, found that 48% of likely voters in the June primary approve and 46% disapprove of Garcetti’s handling of his job. Digging into those numbers, 35% of voters “approve somewhat” of his performance, while 13% “approve strongly.” And 19% of voters disapprove somewhat, while 27% disapprove strongly.

The figures are a big decline from when Garcetti won reelection in 2017 with 81% of the vote in a race that wasn’t particularly competitive, but follow a trend of voters expressing unhappiness with elected officials at all levels.

Garcetti did well among voters who describe themselves as very liberal, with 56% rating him favorably and 38% rating him unfavorably, according to the poll. Those numbers come despite regular criticism from leftist activists over homelessness and policing.

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The poll revealed notable data about perceptions of the mayor and candidates in this year’s mayoral election. Voters supportive of candidate Rick Caruso were more likely to disapprove of Garcetti’s performance, while voters who backed candidate Rep. Karen Bass were likely to approve of the mayor.

Garcetti has suggested he may not endorse anyone in the race.

Dan Schnur, who teaches political communications at USC and UC Berkeley, said it’s not surprising that voters backing Caruso — a businessman who has never held office — are dissatisfied with the mayor, and that voters behind Bass, who was first elected to the state Assembly in 2004, are happy with Garcetti.

“People who are satisfied want to keep things going in [the same] direction with the longtime public official,” Schnur said. “And those who are dissatisfied are going to look for an abrupt change of direction with a first-time candidate.”

That trend followed with some of the other mayoral candidates, according to poll results. Voters who backed Councilman Kevin de León and City Atty. Mike Feuer had high approval ratings for Garcetti. Voters who supported Councilman Joe Buscaino, who has vowed to crack down on homelessness and crime, disapproved in high numbers of the mayor.

Voters who cited crime as a top concern were less likely to approve of Garcetti, while those who cited climate change were more likely to support him, the poll found.

A starkly contrasting pair are on track for a November runoff that would feature sharp divides by ideology, geography and race.

The poll surveyed 1,380 likely voters from March 29 to April 5. The estimated error for the likely voter sample is roughly 3.5 percentage points in either direction.

Mark DiCamillo, director of the IGS poll, said he found it notable that voters who described themselves as neither Democrats nor Republicans, or as politically moderate, gave higher disapproval marks for the mayor.

“I look at those as kind of an indication of which way the wind is blowing,” DiCamillo said. “Swing blocs — how are they responding? In Garcetti’s case, they are more negative than positive.”

The city’s homelessness problem and the human suffering on the street have eclipsed other city issues during Garcetti’s second term in office.

Garcetti has an edge with women, who gave him higher approval ratings than men, who were more likely to disapprove of his performance. DiCamillo said women are more likely to be registered Democrats, so he chalked up Garcetti’s favorability with women as a “partisan effect.”

The mayor also drew higher ratings from those who live on the Westside and in South L.A. than those in the San Fernando Valley, where voters were evenly divided on his performance.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office said he gave “unintentionally blended numbers” when he told reporters that 40 people “under oath” have provided no “corroboration” of harassment allegations made against his former aide.

Latino and white voters were more evenly divided in their support, while he was rated more favorably by Black and Asian and Pacific Islander voters.

The mayor is termed out in December, and his next chapter is unclear.

He was nominated in July to be President Biden’s ambassador to India, but an investigation by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) into sexual harassment allegations against a top advisor to the mayor has delayed a vote in the Senate. Garcetti has said he knew nothing about the complaints.

The mayor spent Monday at a White House event on gun control, Garcetti spokesman Harrison Wollman said. He also attended a meeting with White House staff to discuss the upcoming Summit of the Americas conference, Wollman said. The event is being held in L.A. in June.

Wollman declined to comment about the poll.


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