Lati­nos not em­brac­ing the GOP

Sur­vey shows them back­ing Democrats Brown and Boxer by wide mar­gins over Whitman and Fio­r­ina.

Los Angeles Times - - Front Page - Cath­leen Decker

Latino vot­ers, who have helped to pro­pel Cal­i­for­nia’s left­ward po­lit­i­cal swing over re­cent years, re­main re­luc­tant to em­brace Repub­li­can can­di­dates as the Novem­ber gen­eral elec­tion nears, a new Los An­ge­les Times/USC poll shows.

Reg­is­tered vot­ers who iden­ti­fied them­selves as Latino backed Demo­crat Jerry Brown by a 19-point mar­gin over Repub­li­can Meg Whitman in the race for gover­nor, de­spite Whitman’s mul­ti­ple ap­peals to Latino vot­ers dur­ing the gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign. Reg­is­tered vot­ers who iden­ti­fied them­selves as white gave Brown a slim 2-point mar­gin.

In the race for U.S. Se­nate, in­cum­bent Demo­crat Bar­bara Boxer held a 38point lead over Repub­li­can Carly Fio­r­ina among reg­is­tered Latino vot­ers, five times the lead she held among white vot­ers.

Latino views are keenly watched by po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates and cam­paigns be­cause of the state’s de­mo­graphic march. A 2009 study by the Field Poll found that white vot­ers had de­clined from 83% to 65% of the elec­torate in the pre­vi­ous three decades. At the same time, the per­cent­age of Latino vot­ers had al­most tripled, to 21%.

To al­low a more pre­cise look at this key voter group, the new poll, spon­sored by The Times and the USC Col­lege of Letters, Arts, and Sci­ences, sup­ple­mented its sam­ple of reg­is­tered Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers by in­ter­view­ing 400 Latino reg­is­tered vot­ers in ei­ther English or Span­ish. To avoid chang­ing the over­all re­sults, their num­bers were ad­justed in the poll to match ex­pected voter turnout.

In both the races for gover­nor and for U.S. Se­nate, the can­di­date stand­ings for Latino vot­ers deemed likely to cast bal­lots in Novem­ber were sim­i­lar to those seen among all reg­is­tered Latino vot­ers, but the mar­gin of er­ror for likely vot­ers was larger be­cause of the smaller sam­ple size.

Lati­nos were also prop­ping up Pres­i­dent Obama’s stand­ing in the state. Among white vot­ers, 52% ap­proved how Obama was han­dling his job; among La-

tino vot­ers, 64% ap­proved.

Not even the most op­ti­mistic Repub­li­can odd­s­maker has pre­sumed that the GOP can­di­dates could win the Latino vote out­right, but the party has long sought to at least boost its stand­ing among Lati­nos enough to nar­row the tra­di­tional Demo­cratic edge among other groups, such as women and non­par­ti­san vot­ers. This year, Whitman has fought Brown to a near-draw for much of the cam­paign, but that has been due to her gains among non­par­ti­san vot­ers and women, not Lati­nos.

Whitman has reached for Latino sup­port in myr­iad ways. She be­gan air­ing ads on Span­ish-lan­guage tele­vi­sion sta­tions af­ter her June pri­mary vic­tory, high­light­ing her op­po­si­tion to Ari­zona’s new im­mi­gra­tion law. She also noted her op­po­si­tion to the par­tic­u­lars of the 1994 Cal­i­for­nia mea­sure, Propo­si­tion 187, which would have de­nied tax­payer-fi­nanced ser­vices to il­le­gal im­mi­grants. She erected bill­boards in Latino com­mu­ni­ties, opened a cam­paign of­fice in East Los An­ge­les and spoke to Span­ish-lan­guage me­dia out­lets.

But she re­mains the fa­vorite of only one-third of reg­is­tered Latino vot­ers, the sur­vey found.

Vinka Val­divia of Es­con­dido, a Latina who is a reg­is­tered non­par­ti­san voter, said she fa­vored Brown be­cause he knew the work­ings of govern­ment and would watch out “for the mid­dle class.”

“She is a cor­po­rate per­son who has run very big cor­po­ra­tions, but she, for me, is not the right per­son to care about the mid­dle class,” Val­divia said.

The sur­vey in­di­cated that Repub­li­cans like Whitman and Fio­r­ina have an open­ing to rally Latino vot­ers be­cause of the back­grounds they bring to their races — Whitman as the for­mer head of EBay and Fio­r­ina as the for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of Hewlett-Packard.

When vot­ers were asked whether they pre­ferred a gover­nor with ex­pe­ri­ence in govern­ment or one who has “real-life ex­pe­ri­ence in busi­ness,” white vot­ers sided nar­rowly with the govern­ment vet­eran. Lati­nos, how­ever, gave a 12-point ad­van­tage to the busi­ness world out­sider. When vot­ers were asked whether they were more concerned that Whitman would side with big cor­po­ra­tions or that Brown would bow to la­bor unions, white vot­ers cited Whitman and cor­po­ra­tions by 8 points. Lati­nos were less wor­ried, ex­press­ing the same con­cern by a mere 3 points, and they were no more concerned than whites with the per­sonal money Whitman has spent on her cam­paign.

“There are cer­tainly fac­tors that would have ar­gued for Whitman to do well,” said Manuel Pas­tor, a pro­fes­sor of Amer­i­can Stud­ies and Eth­nic­ity at USC.

Whitman her­self has long hoped that her busi­ness back­ground and the grow­ing small-busi­ness pur­suits of Lati­nos would pro­vide some com­mon ground. “Lati­nas are the fastest-grow­ing seg­ment of the mar­ket in start­ing new busi­nesses,” she told sup­port­ers at an Orange County event in May 2009, ex­plain­ing why Lati­nos were a key com­po­nent of her plan for vic­tory.

But that affin­ity has yet to trans­late into po­lit­i­cal gains. Latino vot­ers gave Brown the edge in a range of com­par­isons — in­clud­ing which can­di­date would bring a clear plan, en­ergy and de­ci­sive­ness to the gov­er­nor­ship — that white vot­ers thought were best rep­re­sented by Whitman. Lati­nos gave Brown the edge over Whitman in han­dling the econ­omy, im­mi­gra­tion, de­vel­op­ing jobs, taxes and ed­u­ca­tion. White vot­ers gave Whitman the edge in han­dling the econ­omy and taxes.

Over­all, while white vot­ers gave Brown a net un­fa­vor­able rat­ing, by a 47%- 42% mar­gin, Latino vot­ers gave Brown a fa­vor­able rat­ing, 34% to 26%. Whites (48% to 36%) and Lati­nos (34% to 22%) both gave Whitman a net un­fa­vor­able rat­ing.

In both the races for gover­nor and Se­nate, Latino vot­ers were more likely than whites to say they did not yet know enough about the can­di­dates to form an opin­ion. Be­cause they con­sti­tute smaller per­cent­ages of vot­ers, the views of African Amer­i­can and Asian vot­ers could not be com­pared in a sta­tis­ti­cally mean­ing­ful way.

Demo­cratic strate­gists have hoped that Whitman’s courtship of Lati­nos would be blunted by the GOP pri­mary, dur­ing which chal­lenger Steve Poizner en­gaged her in a dis­pute over il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. Try­ing to stave off aban­don­ment by con­ser­va­tives, Whitman aired an advertisement in which her cam­paign chair­man, Pete Wil­son, said that she would be “tough as nails” on il­le­gal im­mi­grants. Wil­son, the for­mer gover­nor, is still de­rided by many Lati­nos for his sup­port of Propo­si­tion 187 in 1994.

The poll did not di­rectly test the ef­fect of their im­mi­gra­tion stances on Whitman and Fio­r­ina, but the re­sults on other ques­tions sug­gested the is­sue is sig­nif­i­cant. In both races, Lati­nos gave Democrats an ad­van­tage in han­dling im­mi­gra­tion by at least 20 points, higher than for all other is­sues ex­cept health­care. (On that is­sue, asked only of the Se­nate can­di­dates, Boxer held the edge over Fio­r­ina by 31points among Lati­nos.)

“The Latino vot­ers are be­ing mo­ti­vated by mul­ti­ple is­sues, but im­mi­gra­tion is cer­tainly one,” Pas­tor said, also cit­ing health­care and the en­vi­ron­ment.

Nei­ther Lati­nos nor any other voter group demon­strates una­nim­ity. Her­man Gon­za­les, a Repub­li­can from East Los An­ge­les, said he was at­tracted to both Whitman and Fio­r­ina by their busi­ness back­grounds. He con­sid­ers Boxer “too po­lar­iz­ing,” and his neg­a­tive view of Brown dates to Brown’s first ten­ure as gover­nor.

He said he was not turned off by Whitman’s stance on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion — or Fio­r­ina’s even tougher one. Rather, he feels they do not go far enough in fight­ing what he called “the sin­gle-most threat” to good­pay­ing Cal­i­for­nia jobs.

“They might voice anti this or pro-that, but they are dif­fer­ent sides of the same coin,” he said.

The Los An­ge­les Times/ USC poll was con­ducted Sept. 15-22. Re­sults for Latino reg­is­tered vot­ers have a mar­gin of er­ror of 5 points in ei­ther di­rec­tion. The mar­gin for white votes is 3.3 points in ei­ther di­rec­tion.

The sur­vey was a joint project of the Demo­cratic polling firm of Green­berg Quin­lan Ros­ner and the Repub­li­can firm Amer­i­can View­point. Ad­di­tional Latino in­ter­views were con­ducted by Latino De­ci­sions.


Katie Falken­berg

The Repub­li­can speaks to sup­port­ers as she opens her East L.A. cam­paign of­fice.


Gina Fer­azzi

The Demo­crat waves dur­ing a pa­rade in L.A. mark­ing Mex­i­can In­de­pen­dence Day.

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