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Letters to the Editor: How a survey of ‘voters’ on homelessness excluded millions of Angelenos

Voters cast ballots at a polling location.
A reader criticizes The Times for only surveying L.A.’s registered voters in its polls on homelessness.
(Los Angeles Times)
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To the editor: With its surveys of voters on homelessness and housing, the Los Angeles Times is perpetuating the systemic exclusion of the most vulnerable residents from civic discourse. These surveys set the public narrative on the exact issues that disproportionately impact those excluded voices.

There are 10 million individuals living in Los Angeles County. About 2.1 million are under 18 years old, leaving 7.9 million adults. Of these 7.9 million adults, only 5.7 million are registered voters.

In its polls on homelessness since 2019, The Times has surveyed only registered voters, leaving 2.2 million adults with no opportunity to express their opinions. By design, more than 2 million Angelenos have been excluded from participating in the surveys that set the agenda.

I believe in surveys. They play an important role in decision-making, agenda-setting and understanding our complex society. While The Times clearly informs readers that these are surveys of voters, it does not clearly or transparently disclose that close to one-third of all adult Angelenos are excluded.

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Your surveys of voters are extremely well done. Very knowledgeable and experienced practitioners conduct them. They’re no problem if you want to discuss only elections, but they are problematic if you believe in inclusion and want readers, decision-makers and service providers to know what Angelenos think.

What’s the solution? Simply do surveys with all residents in the sample. It is not hard to do — we at Loyola Marymount University do it all the time.

Fernando J. Guerra, Los Angeles

The writer is a professor of Chicano/a and Latino/a studies and political science at Loyola Marymount University, where he directs the Center for the Study of Los Angeles.

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