With the election just days away to decide Los Angeles’ next mayor, Eric Garcetti leads Wendy Greuel by seven points, according to results of a new USC Price School of Public Policy/Los Angeles Times Los Angeles City Election Poll.
Los Angeles voters go to the polls on May 21 to decide the city’s next mayor. In the latest poll, conducted May 14-16, LA City Councilman Garcetti is favored by 48 percent of voters compared to 41 percent for City Controller Greuel. Eleven percent of voters are undecided.
This represents a slight narrowing of the race since the last USC Price/LATimes Poll, conducted April 15-17, when 50 percent of voters supported Garcetti compared to 40 percent for Greuel.
Among people who said they have already voted by mail-in absentee ballot, Garcetti leads with 48 percent of the vote compared to 42 percent for Greuel. Nineteen percent of voters said they planned to vote by mail, and 80 percent said they would vote at the polls on election day.
The poll projects a turnout of about 25 percent in the city election, slightly higher than the turnout in the primary election in March. The pre-primary USC Price/LA Times Poll conducted in February showed Garcetti leading Greuel by two points with 13 percent of voters undecided; in the actual primary results, Garcetti led Greuel by four points.
“While these numbers are certainly very good news for Garcetti, the likely low turnout coupled with the high number of undecided voters and soft support on both sides means that this race is certainly not over,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Price/LA Times Poll and director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.
“This campaign has turned into a referendum on Wendy Greuel and more specifically her support from public employee unions,” Schnur added. “The overriding challenge for Greuel continues to be to convince voters that her support from the public employees does not make her beholden to them.”
Despite Greuel’s historic bid to become LA’s first female mayor, she still does not have an advantage among women, the poll showed. Forty-seven percent of female voters backed Garcetti and 43 percent supported Greuel. Men backed Garcetti over Greuel, 49 percent to 38 percent.
But Greuel has made strides among younger women, with 52 percent support among women under the age of 50 compared to 41 percent support for Garcetti among young women. Among older women, Garcetti leads Greuel 51-to-38.
Gender was the top reason given when voters were asked about their support of Greuel. Among Greuel supporters, 13 percent said they are voting for her because she is a woman and “we need a female mayor.” Four percent of those backing Greuel said “union support” was their main reason for supporting her, the poll found.
Greuel’s overwhelming fundraising advantage among unions does not appear to have given her an edge among union households: More than half (51 percent) of union households support Garcetti, compared to 39 percent for Greuel. Among nonunion households, Garcetti leads Greuel 48-to-41.
Garcetti leads Greuel by a 21-point margin among conservative voters with 54 percent of the conservative vote, compared to 33 percent for Greuel. Among moderate and liberal voters, his lead is in the single digits: Garcetti leads Greuel 45-to-44 among moderates, and his lead is 50-to-43 among liberals.
“Greuel is making big gains with younger women and left-leaning voters in general, but she’s really bleeding among conservatives. By painting Greuel with the union brush, Garcetti has undercut what should have been a natural strength for Greuel with Republicans on waste and fraud,” said Amy Levin, vice president of Democratic polling firm Benenson Strategy Group, which conducted the poll with Republican polling firm M4 Strategies on behalf of USC Price and the Times. “He has animated that segment of the population against her. They are voting for Garcetti since they don’t want to see Greuel win.”
A full 25 percent of Garcetti supporters indicated their concerns about Greuel as the reason for their vote.
With the endorsement of Kevin James, the lone Republican in the mayoral primary, Garcetti has 57 percent of Republican voters compared to 35 percent for Greuel. Among independents, Garcetti leads Greuel 46-to-36. Among Democrats, Garcetti leads Greuel 46-to-44.
Regionally, Greuel is behind in all areas of the city including a tight race on her home turf, the San Fernando Valley, where Garcetti leads 47-to-44. In April, Greuel had a slight advantage in the Valley leading Garcetti 45-to-43, according to the USC Price/LA Times Poll.
“While the numbers haven’t changed much, the demographics within them have. This is a testament to the fact that negative campaigning is having an effect,” said Chris St. Hilaire, CEO of M4 Strategies. “Those negative attacks have pushed support over to Garcetti.”
Forty-nine percent of voters on LA’s Westside support Garcetti compared to Greuel’s 40 percent. In South Los Angeles, Garcetti holds a five-point advantage over Greuel, 41-to-35. In Central LA, where Garcetti represents the Hollywood/Silver Lake communities, he leads Greuel 52-to-41.
Garcetti also leads Greuel among white voters (51-to-40), among Latinos (53-to-40) and among young voters (50-to-40). Among black voters, Greuel leads with 48 percent support compared to 25 percent for Garcetti.
“The high level of undecided votes among African-American voters means that a strong get-out-the-vote effort in those communities can have a real impact as to whether Maxine Waters, Tom Bradley and Bill Clinton have the opportunity to make a difference for Greuel,” Schnur said.
Both Congresswoman Waters and President Clinton have endorsed Greuel, who served as deputy for Mayor Bradley, the first African-American mayor of Los Angeles.
In the race for LA city attorney, the USC Price/LA Times Poll showed Assemblyman Mike Feuer leading incumbent Carmen Trutanich, 42 percent to 24 percent.
In the race for Los Angeles city controller, LA City Councilman Dennis Zine has a slight lead over attorney Ron Galperin, 31 percent to 28 percent.
Majority favor limits on medical marijuana dispensaries
The poll found that nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of voters favor more regulation of the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries, compared to 13 percent who opt for less regulation and 19 percent who say regulation should stay the same.
In addition, a majority of voters support the ideas behind two measures on Tuesday’s ballot seeking to regulate the city’s dispensaries.
Fifty-five percent of voters favor the limits set forth by Proposition D, a ballot measure that would cap the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city at 135 — the number of clinics operating in the city prior to the September 2007 moratorium imposed by the City Council.
Thirty-five percent of voters said no limits should be put on the number of Los Angeles dispensaries, so long as each dispensary operates within legal limits — such as employee background checks and not dispensing to minors — to ensure patients in pain can “get the prescriptions they need.”
Fifty-four percent of voters want to raise taxes by 20 percent on medical marijuana dispensaries, a proposal put forth in the competing ballot measure Ordinance F. Thirty-three percent oppose increasing taxes on dispensaries and 13 percent said they “didn’t know.”
Angelenos want investments in public transit over highways
When asked where policymakers should focus transportation spending, 49 percent of voters said money should be invested in public transit, such as buses, rail and subways, as opposed to 35 percent who said money should go to roads and freeways. Twelve percent said policymakers should focus on both.
Voters named traffic congestion as LA’s most serious transportation problem (39 percent), followed by a lack of public transportation (27 percent) and the poor condition of streets (20 percent).
Sixty-five percent said they had not used a mode of public transportation in the city within the last month, and 35 percent of voters said they had used LA’s buses, trains or subways during that time.
Overall, 25 percent used the bus, 17 percent used a subway, trolley or light rail, and 14 percent traveled via train in the past month. Of those who had used public transportation, 36 percent used it at least once per week and 62 percent used it less than once a week.
Only 13 percent of voters who used public transit said they used it “mostly to work,” with 57 percent saying they “mostly go somewhere else.” Twenty-seven percent of voters using public transit said they use it equally for work and other trips.
Among those who had not used public transit within the last month, 26 percent of voters said they avoided LA’s public transit because they preferred driving, walking or biking; 17 percent said public transit didn’t take them where they wanted to go; 15 percent said they don’t use public transit because they don’t need to leave their neighborhoods; and 8 percent said public transit time schedules are “not convenient.”
Voters were equally split when asked if they support expansion of “HOT lanes,” such as those on the 110 freeway, which are free for carpool drivers but can be accessed by solo motorists for a fee. Forty-seven percent said they support expanding these lanes to other freeways and the same percentage said they oppose expanding them.
However, 58 percent said they would not be willing to pay the extra fees — which range from $2.75 to $15.40 for the full 11-mile stretch depending on traffic — even if the lanes would significantly cut down on their commute time. Thirty-five percent of voters said they would pay for the lanes if they shortened commute time significantly.
“There seems to be a conflict between support of public transit policies and the implication for action,” said Raphael Bostic, director of the USC Bedrosian Center on Governance and the Public Enterprise and holder of the Bedrosian Chair in Governance and the Public Enterprise at USC Price. “The results are striking in that there’s a good deal of support for investment in ‘HOT lanes’ and public transit, but when asked if voters would change their behaviors, the results were less affirming.”
The USC Price/LA Times Poll was conducted May 14-16, 2013, by M4 Strategies and Benenson Strategy Group on behalf of USC Price and the Times. The full sample of 500 likely voters carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.