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Press Release · April 15, 1998

Significant Cross-Over Voting Likely In State’s First Open Primary, Survey Suggests

Crime Still Tops List of Policy Problems in California, But Majority Believe State Headed in Right Direction

SAN FRANCISCO, California, April 15, 1998 – California’s first open primary is attracting a significant amount of cross-over voting in the race for Governor, according to a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The first in a series of large-scale surveys conducted by Mark Baldassare shows Al Checchi with 19% support, Jane Harman 18%, and Gray Davis 12% among likely voters. Republican Dan Lungren receives 23%. While Checchi and Harman draw nearly equal support from Democrats, Checchi is attracting considerably more support than Harman from the Republican ranks (17% to 7%), including Republican women, and other voters (including independents). Twenty-eight percent of Republicans and 42% of “other” voters say they are supporting a Democrat for Governor in the primary.

In the U.S. Senate race, a relatively small number of major party voters are crossing over. Among likely voters, Republican Darryl Issa holds a narrow lead over Matt Fong (14% to 9%) and Democrat Barbara Boxer receives 43%. Neither Issa nor Fong currently draws much support from outside the Republican party. Boxer makes minor inroads among Republicans, with 13% of both Republican men and women supporting her re-election, but she is the choice of 41% of “other” voters.

“The open primary may well herald an era of political change in California’s statewide elections,” said Mark Baldassare, director of the PPIC Statewide Survey. “And it may also change how candidates campaign for office – witness Checchi’s early marketing and the lack, until recently, of a party affiliation in his ads.”

Latinos Can’t Be Labeled

Checchi’s investment in Spanish-language advertising also appears to be paying off. He receives one third (34%) of Latino votes while Dan Lungren receives only one in 10 Latino votes. In the U.S. Senate race, Senator Barbara Boxer is heavily favored by Latinos (53%), with Darryl Issa and Matt Fong receiving little support (8% and 6%).

The growing participation of Latinos in the political process has sparked discussion about possible shifts in the political pendulum. But, politically, Latinos look very much like other California residents. Few place themselves at either end of the political spectrum: 8% describe themselves as “very liberal” and 13% as “very conservative.” Overall, 27% say they are liberal, 36% moderate, and 35% are conservative.

Like many Californians, a majority of Latinos (57%) believe things in the state are headed in the right direction, and they are leading a surge in consumer confidence. Latinos are more likely than others to say they are better off today than they were last year (47%, as compared to 34% of others) and that they will be better off next year than they are now (52% to 42%).

The Conflicted California Voter

California voters are strongly in favor of Proposition 227, the bilingual education initiative, and the campaign reform initiative, Proposition 226. However, their responses to the two initiatives present some interesting paradoxes.

Among all voters, 76% support and 20% oppose Proposition 227. But despite this overwhelming support for eliminating bilingual education programs, 43% say they know “only a little” or “nothing” about current bilingual programs in public schools. And while passage of Proposition 227 would ultimately limit local control over bilingual programs, a majority (55%) say they would favor leaving decisions about bilingual education to local school districts. A majority of Latinos (57%) are in favor of Proposition 227 with 40% opposed.

Voters are similarly conflicted about their support of Proposition 226. Sixty-five percent support and only 27% oppose the initiative, which would require unions to obtain permission from their members before using union dues for political contributions and ban foreign contributions to state and local candidates. But surprisingly, voters are almost evenly divided about the concept of placing restrictions on the ability of labor unions to contribute to political candidates and initiatives, even though they strongly favor an initiative that would have this effect. In addition, 76% of voters say they would support a similar requirement that corporations obtain permission from their shareholders before using company funds for political contributions.

Concern With Crime Persists, Unrelated to Trends

Even though crime rates have fallen in most parts of the state, Californians still rank it as the most serious policy problem today (28%) with education a close second (20%). Only 5% of Californians now view the economy as the most serious policy problem, compared with 29% just four years ago. During the last Gubernatorial campaign in 1994, only 7% of Californians considered education to be the most serious policy problem.

Nearly one-third of Los Angeles Metro and Central Valley residents consider crime to be the top issue facing the state, while education tops the list for San Francisco Bay area residents (29%). These regional findings are two of the many that reflect the great diversity among California’s regions on issues ranging from voting preferences to economic opportunity to attitudes about public services.

About the Survey

The purpose of the PPIC Statewide Survey is to develop an in-depth profile of the social, economic, and political forces at work in California elections and in shaping the state’s public policies. The survey is intended to provide the public and policymakers with relevant information on the following: Californians’ overall impressions of key policy issues and of quality of life; differences in social and political attitudes among demographic groups and across different regions of the state; the characteristics of groups that are shaping the state’s elections and policy debates; and the political attitudes underlying “voter distrust” of government and low voter turnout. A series of surveys will be conducted and released during the 1998 election cycle.

The findings of the current survey are based on a telephone interview of 2,002 California adult residents surveyed from April 1 to April 8, 1998. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish. The sampling error for the total sample is +/- 2%. The sampling error for the 1,623 voters is +/- 2.5% and for the 993 likely voters +/- 3%. For additional information on survey methodology, see page 21 of the attached report.

Dr. Mark Baldassare is a senior fellow at PPIC. He is founder and director of the Orange County Annual Survey at UC Irvine. For over two decades, he has conducted surveys for major news organizations, including the Orange County Edition of the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Orange County Register, KRON-TV, KCAL-TV, KQED Radio, and KFWB Radio.

PPIC is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to independent, nonpartisan research on economic, social, and political issues that affect the lives of Californians. The Institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett.