L.A. Elections May Be Decided by Older, White Voters, Poll Shows

Michael Finnegan et al., Los Angeles Times, May 20, 2013

Tuesday’s elections will sweep in new leadership for Los Angeles’ 3.8 million residents, but the races are likely to be decided by an older, whiter and more educated fraction of the city’s population.

Latinos, the city’s dominant ethnic group and a key voting bloc, make up 44% of the city’s population, U.S. Census figures show. But a USC Price/Los Angeles Times poll of likely voters last week suggests Latinos will make up 24% of those who cast ballots Tuesday, in part because many are immigrants who are ineligible to vote.

Non-Latino whites, by contrast, at 32% of the city’s population, are likely to total 51% of the vote, giving them an outsized role in choosing the next mayor, according to the poll.

Apathy among young people could diminish their clout too. Of the city’s voting-age population, 65% are under 50. But only 37% of those likely to vote are under 50.

The poll of 500 likely voters asked a series of demographic questions and underscored the longstanding, sharp disparities between the voters who choose the city’s leaders and the far larger population they represent.

“The issue base for affluent, more educated, older voters, what they care about — their priority list is different than less educated, lower-income, younger voters,” said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.

Latinos may be underrepresented in L.A. elections. But in the current contest for mayor, candidates Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti have recognized them as a growing and potentially decisive body of voters.

Latinos now represent more than twice the share of likely voters they did 20 years ago, according to Times polling surveys. Greuel, Garcetti and their allies have targeted Latinos with a flood of bilingual mailers, Spanish-language television ads and endorsements from some of the community’s political, entertainment and civil rights leaders.

“We believe the candidates really have recognized the importance of the Latino vote,” said Rosalind Gold, senior director of policy, research and advocacy at the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

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In the final days of the election, both mayoral candidates also made a major push for African American votes.

The USC Sol Price School of Public Policy/LA Times Los Angeles City Primary Poll found that African Americans made up 12% of likely voters. They make up 9% of the city’s population.

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