TOPICS > Politics

California Voters

October 8, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT


GWEN IFILL: The Schwarzenegger locomotive did not come out of nowhere. Last night’s emphatic results were driven by a healthy voter turnout, and a distinct distaste for the man in office. But there was a lot more at play in a remarkable election that elevated a novice Republican with celebrity credentials to the highest office in the most popular state in the union. For those details, we turn to Mark DiCamillo, the director of the Field Poll, a nonpartisan survey of California public opinion. Mark DiCamillo what happened in this race and let break it down before I group starting with the Republicans. This wasn’t supposed to be a Republican state.

MARK DiCAMILLO: Well, the Republicans at the beginning of this campaign were clearly divided between the two prominent candidates in the replacement election. There was an even split between McClintock supporters and Arnold Schwarzenegger supporters, however, as we got closer and closer to the election Arnold Schwarzenegger gained momentum and after the debate the GOP leadership in the state threw their support behind Arnold Schwarzenegger and asked people to follow and they clearly did.

Looking at the exit polls Arnold Schwarzenegger was supported by 74 percent of Republican voters, more than four times as many voters as voted for McClintock so he really got the GOP vote behind him.

GWEN IFILL: So they decided to be practical in the end rather than ideological necessarily?

MARK DiCAMILLO: Yeah. I think they voted their heads rather than their hearts. A lot of voters would have like to vote for McClintock on the Republican side but opted for Schwarzenegger with a more practical vote.

GWEN IFILL: Goes without saying Gray Davis didn’t get all of the Republicans he needed how did independents vote?

MARK DiCAMILLO: Independents were always showing the way of this election. Independents voted on the s side for Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger for 15 points. Importantly for Davis he lost about one out of four of his own party. That really hurt and in most of the preelection polls that was the troublesome group he was never able to win them back.

GWEN IFILL: You mean 25 percent of the members of his own party were too mad at him to even vote no on the recall?

MARK DiCAMILLO: That’s exactly in. In the pre-election polls Davis was getting low polls among Republicans but a majority of the Democrats disapproved of the job that Davis was doing. There was quite a bit of antipathy towards the incumbent even within his own party.

GWEN IFILL: In the last week we saw these kinds of shocking revelations about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dealings with women over the years — yet women voters didn’t seem to desert him over that?

MARK DiCAMILLO: That’s true. If you look at the exit polls, the margin of Schwarzenegger’s victory among women, and he did carry women, was about the same as it was prior to the revelation, so if there was some hesitation among women and maybe they gave a little more consideration to it over the weekend, it didn’t show in the election outcome. They voted the same way they were intending to vote prior to the revelations.

GWEN IFILL: Another important voting group in California Latinos voters were supposed to be drawn to the polls on the Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante and they did show up but didn’t vote for him.

MARK DiCAMILLO: Well they did vote for Bustamante but not in the margins he hoped. Only 52 percent of Latinos chose Bustamante on the replacement election side, 31 percent went for Schwarzenegger and another 9 percent went for McClintock, so aggregated, 40 percent of the Latinos voted for Republican candidates in is race.

That’s big news and if that should continue I think you’ll see changes in the electoral landscape within California, because one of the big factors Democrats have been able to carry so many offices in this state has been through the strength and support of Latino voters. And in this election where they had a Latino candidate they didn’t even get over 52 percent.

GWEN IFILL: Is that because Latinos much like blacks and women and other minority groups aren’t a monolith when it comes to voting and vote for the same reasons other groups do?

MARK DiCAMILLO: I think that’s true and they’re more up for grabs than the black constituency. I think they’re more loyal Democrats. They don’t have as strong a tie to the Democratic Party and I think they saw Bustamante literally as more of the same; that’s what many of the white voters saw, and it eroded some of Bustamante’s potential support.

GWEN IFILL: And finally, are they any tea leaves that can be read here for the 2004 national elections? I’m sure every Democrat candidate running for president and the man in the White House are all picking through trying to figure out what they can use or exploit out of this?

MARK DiCAMILLO: The most interesting numbers that came out of yesterday’s election really weren’t in the exit polls but actual vote. If you look at Los Angeles County’s vote, Los Angeles County is one quarter of the state, the largest county, 10 million people live in L.A. County. They voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger by 7 points.

This is the first time in I would say over a decade that we have had a Republican getting more votes than a Democrat in L.A. County. It’s one of the underpinnings of the Democratic vote support in California. Along with the San Francisco Bay area, so if this is a new thing, we’ll have to watch, but it is certainly something vulnerable I think now for next year and I think the Republicans and the president will probably take notice of what’s going on in L.A.

GWEN IFILL: Mark DiCamillo, thank you very much.