Poll Analysis: Most Know Little About Proposed City Charter

     If the electorate in the city of Los Angeles had to vote on the new city charter today, it would be a difficult decision for them to make. Virtually no one has heard, read or seen anything about the proposed new charter. And when they were read some of the provisions of the new charter, such as strengthening the mayor's power, creating a citywide system of advisory neighborhood councils and limiting Civil Service protection for some top city officials, a third were still undecided as to how they would vote. Forty-five percent of the electorate say they would vote yes on the revised charter, while 23% would vote no. Those voters living on the Westside of the city were more likely to vote yes, 57% (16% would vote no), than voters in the Valley at 50% (21% would vote no), Central L.A. at 40% (28% would vote no) and Southern L.A. at 35% (24% would vote no).
     Voters who are more affluent, highly educated, politically conservative, whites and Latinos seem to like the charter more than their counterparts. More than half of the voters with household incomes of $60K or more would vote for charter reform, as would 48% of white, 47% of Latinos voters and 48% of those with a college degree or more. Blacks are divided 34%-35% on a new city charter. Fifty-five percent of self-described conservatives would vote for the charter, compared to 46% of self-described liberals and 38% of self-described moderates.
     In addition to the proposed new city charter, there will be two amendments on the June ballot that involve the expansion of the City Council seats. One amendment is to expand the City Council to twenty-one members and the other amendment is to expand the City Council to twenty-five members. As the poll has shown there is little knowledge among voters about the proposed new city charter, there is also high unawareness for these proposals to expand the City Council. Nineteen percent of the voters would vote to expand the Council members to twenty-one, while 16% would vote for expansion to twenty-five members, 12% say they would vote for both amendments. Combining the vote for either amendment and both˜31% of the electorate would vote for expansion to twenty-one seats and 28% would vote for expansion to twenty-five seats. However, nearly two in five (38%) of city voters would vote for neither amendment and 15% are undecided.
     Of those who say they would vote to expand the City Council, 49% would still vote for expansion even if they thought their taxes would increase. Forty-two percent would vote no and 9% are undecided at this time. Of those voters who live on the Westside and voted yes to expand the City Council seats, 52% of this group would still support expansion even if their taxes were raised, as would 61% of those voters who live in the southern part of the city. Voters living in the Valley who support increasing the Council seats are split whether they would still support the change in Council seats if their taxes were increased, while voters living in the central part of the city would not support expansion if their taxes are raised. Also, those affluent voters (income more than $60K) who want expansion, would still support the measure even if it meant their taxes would be raised (64% support, 30% oppose) as would white voters (55%-36%) and voters with a college degree or more (54%-37%).
     The poll asked in separate questions about a few of the changes that are being proposed in the new city charter. Respondents who are registered to vote were asked if that would make them more likely to vote for the new charter, less likely to vote for it, or if the changes would not have much effect on how they would vote.
     The first change asked about is the strengthening of the mayor's power. Respondents were told that the new charter would give the mayor increased power to fire city department heads and commissioners, as well as have formal authority to issue executive orders. After reading arguments for and against this change, the electorate was pretty divided over this issue. Thirty percent would be more likely to vote for the charter because of this change, 33% would be more likely to vote against it and 27% say it would not effect how they would vote. Forty percent of voters who are college graduates or more say they are more likely to vote for the charter because of the strengthening of the mayor's power, 36% say less likely, 19% say it would have no effect. White voters were split, 37% more likely, 36% less likely and 20% say it would have no effect. On the other hand, 41% of black voters say they would be less likely to vote for the charter because of this change, 15% say more likely and 36% say it would have no effect. Those earning more than $60K also would be slightly more likely, 39%, than less likely, 32% to vote for the charter because of this change, while 19% say it would have no effect on how they would vote.
     The next proposal mentioned is the creation of a citywide system of advisory neighborhood councils that would be established community by community. After reading arguments for and against this proposed change, thirty-six percent of city voters say they would be more likely to vote for the new charter because of this, 21% would be less likely and 32% say it would not effect how they would vote. Majority (52%) of voters on the Westside are in the only area of the city saying they would be more likely to vote for the new charter because of creation of these neighborhood councils. A plurality of white voters (46%) and voters with a college degree or more (44%) also say they would be more likely to vote for the charter because of this change.
     Another change in the city charter that was asked about in the poll is the limiting of Civil Service protection for some top city officials, including the top deputies to the city's police chief. Again, after reading arguments by supporters and opponents for this change, about a third (32%) of voters say they would be more likely to vote for the new city charter because of this change, 20% say less likely and 35% say it would have no effect. Two out of five highly educated voters would be more likely to vote for the charter because of this proposed changed.
     The poll then revisited the question of whether city voters would vote for the proposed new city charter after giving them some more information. When asked again if the election were being held today would they vote for the new city charter or not, there was a slight movement in the vote with more undecideds voting against city charter than for it. The undecideds shifted by 8 points from 32% before arguments were read to 24% after arguments were read. After arguments were read, 48% say they would vote for the new city charter, compared to 45% before arguments. After arguments were read, 28% say they would vote no, while 23% said no before arguments.

     Impressions of Possible Mayoral Candidates
     Citywide residents, as well as registered voters, have little sense of the leading possible contenders vying to be mayor of the city of Los Angeles. Despite his five citywide elections and long family history in Los Angeles government, City Attorney James K. Hahn is still unknown to 58% of the city. Of those who do know him, 31% have a favorable opinion of him, 7% unfavorable and 4% are not sure. He fared slightly better among registered voters, 49% are not aware of who he is, 39% have a favorable opinion, 7% unfavorable and 5% are not sure whether they have a favorable or unfavorable impression of him.
     The same holds true for Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. He also has been in city government for 20 years˜on the City Council and as a Supervisor˜and 59% of city residents haven't heard enough about him to say whether their opinion is favorable or not. Of those who do know him, 30% of all residents have a favorable impression of him, 8% unfavorable and 3% are not sure. He does much better among registered voters. Forty-two percent of city voters have a favorable opinion of the supervisor, while 10% have an unfavorable impression and 4% are not sure. Forty-four percent are not aware of who he is.
     Antonio Villaraigosa, speaker of the state assembly, does even worse than the other two elected officials. He is the second most important elected official in California, yet more than three-quarters of city residents, including 73% of Latinos, have no opinion about him. Of those who know him, 16% have a favorable opinion, 3% an unfavorable opinion and 3% are not sure. Among registered voters, 74% are not aware of who he is, 17% favorable, 5% unfavorable and 4% not sure. Among Latino voters, 66% are not aware of who the Assembly speaker is.

     How the Poll Was Conducted
     The Times Poll contacted 1,221 citywide residents in Los Angeles, including 854 registered voters, by telephone March 20 through 27. The margin of sampling error for the entire sample and for registered voters is plus or minus three percentage points. Telephone numbers were chosen from a list of all exchanges in the city. Random-digit dialing techniques were used so that listed and non-listed numbers could be contacted. The entire sample was weighted slightly to conform with census figures for sex, race, age, education and region. For certain subgroups the error margin may be somewhat higher. Poll results can also be affected by other factors such as question wording and the order in which questions are presented. Surveys were conducted in English and Spanish. Asians were interviewed as part of the overall sample, but there were not enough to break out as a separate subgroup.Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
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