With a municipal primary election just three days away, Los Angeles voters remain largely undecided about who should be the next LA city attorney, according to a new USC Sol Price School of Public Policy/Los Angeles Times Los Angeles City Primary Poll.
When asked whom they would vote for, 40 percent of the 500 likely voters surveyed remained undecided among the four candidates — incumbent LA City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, former California State Assembly and LA City Council member Mike Feuer, and private lawyers Greg Smith and Noel Weiss.
Feuer led the pack with most votes at 23.8 percent, followed by 16.4 percent for Trutanich, 15.2 percent for Smith and 4.7 percent for Weiss. With no one likely to win the majority, the top two vote-getters will compete in a runoff election scheduled for May 21.
LA primary elections have historically been low turnout affairs. Also to the extent that the electorate is engaged, the majority of focus so far has been on the race to succeed Antonio Villaraigosa as LA mayor.
“It’s not unusual for a down-ticket local election to draw relatively little attention,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Price/LA Times Poll and director of the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. “To the extent that voters know much about the candidates at all, this race is a referendum on Carmen Trutanich.”
Given low voter awareness, Schnur added, “the question is whether Trutanich’s name identification ultimately will help or harm him with voters at the poll.”
But with a large percentage of undecided voters up for grabs, front-runner Feuer should not take anything for granted.
“This is a low turnout election with low voter awareness and low voter intensity,” Schnur said. “Feuer maintains a small advantage here, but either Smith’s advertising or Trutanich’s residual name identification could possibly change that.”
The USC Price/LA Times Poll also surveyed likely voters about their attitude toward Proposition A, which, if enacted, would institute a half-cent sales tax increase to provide funding for a number of municipal services, such as 911 emergency response services; firefighter, paramedic and police staffing levels; community policing, senior services, after-school gang and drug prevention programs; and repairing potholes and sidewalks. According to the poll, the measure leads slightly at 53.4 percent, with 40.6 percent opposed.
Support for the half-cent sales tax hike was much higher among Latino voters, with more than two-thirds (66.9 percent) supporting the proposition and 28.9 percent opposing it. Among white voters, 41.8 percent supported the proposition and 51 percent opposed it. A similar vote split between whites and Latinos occurred with the Proposition 30 campaign last year.
“Latino voters appear much more willing to invest additional financial resources for what they believe to be necessary services than the rest of the electorate,” Schnur said. “Although Measure A is ahead in our poll, the fact that it’s so close to the 50-percent threshold puts it in a very precarious position. The key for supporters will be turning out the vote in the Latino community.”
The USC Price/LA Times Poll was conducted Feb. 24-27 by M4 Strategies and Benenson Strategy Group on behalf of the USC Price School of Public Policy and the Los Angeles Times. The full sample carries a margin-of-error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
More USC Price/LA Times Poll results on the mayoral race will be released on March 3.