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Interviews With California Voters : Experience Aided Governor, Cranston

November 05, 1986|GEORGE SKELTON | Times Sacramento Bureau Chief

The Californians who reelected Republican Gov. George Deukmejian to a second term on Tuesday basically respected his leadership and experience and were satisfied with the way things are going in the state, voter interviews with The Los Angeles Times Poll showed.

But those allied with Deukmejian were not the least bit satisfied with Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird and Associate Justices Cruz Reynoso and Joseph R. Grodin, voting by lopsided margins to oust them from the state Supreme Court.

In the U.S. Senate race, if people "voted for the man," they tended to side with Democratic incumbent Alan Cranston. These voters were particularly attracted by the personal qualities of experience and trust that the 72-year-old senator had acquired over a long public career spanning three decades.

On the other hand, people who chose a Senate candidate because of his philosophy went for Republican Rep. Ed Zschau, especially liking his fiscal conservatism. These people voted much more for Zschau's politics than they did for him personally.

As with Cranston, personal qualities are what attracted voters to Deukmejian. But, unlike Cranston, Deukmejian additionally was on the right side politically of many issues--such as opposition to Bird, "law and order" and government spending.

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley's best issue in his losing race against Deukmejian clearly was toxic pollution. But a lot more people rallied around the issue than they did Bradley himself.

The Los Angeles Times Poll, directed by I. A. Lewis, interviewed 6,775 voters after they had cast ballots at 151 California precincts. The margin of error is 3% in either direction.

Deukmejian got his biggest support from men, conservatives and people living outside of metropolitan centers. The Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay areas essentially were split down the middle between the governor and his challenger. But the rest of the state went nearly 2 to 1 for Deukmejian.

People under age 45 divided evenly on the two gubernatorial candidates. But people 45 and older sided with the Republican incumbent by nearly 2 to 1.

Deukmejian got nearly one-third of the Democratic vote, but only one in 10 Republicans backed Bradley.

Minorities supported Bradley in his bid to become the nation's first elected black governor: Blacks by 11 to 1, Latinos by roughly 3 to 2, and Asians by 5 to 4. But Anglos, who compose nearly 80% of the electorate, went for Deukmejian by almost 2 to 1.

Jews also backed Bradley by 2 to 1.

The reason most often cited by people for voting the way they did in the gubernatorial race was "he gets things done." And among those for whom "getting things done" was the biggest criteria, the vote was 3 to 1 for Deukmejian. Experience also rated high on the list, and people who regarded this as the most important criteria chose Deukmejian by 7 to 1.

Bradley won a slight majority of the votes of people whose decision mainly was based on which candidate had "the right political philosophy." It ranked No. 2.

The top-ranked issues in the gubernatorial campaign were "law and order" and Chief Justice Bird. People most concerned about "law and order" sided with Deukmejian, a former state attorney general, by 3 to 1. And those thinking Bird was the biggest issue went for the governor by nearly 2 to 1.

Also ranked high on the issues list was state spending, and people most worried about this voted nearly 5 to 1 for the fiscally conservative governor. Even people whose biggest concern was education--normally a Democratic issue--voted 5 to 4 for Deukmejian, who has allotted nearly half the state budget to public schools.

Toxics pollution ranked only No. 5 on the list of gubernatorial issues. Bradley had made what he termed Deukmejian's mismanagement of toxics waste cleanup the focus of his campaign. And people chiefly concerned about toxics voted 2 to 1 for Bradley.

But more than twice as many people thought California was "going in the right direction" as lamented about it having "gotten off on the wrong track." And people who believed the state was headed right voted for Deukmejian by 5 to 1.

Another example of this general satisfaction was that more than half of Deukmejian's supporters said California was headed right and only 1 in 17 thought it was off on the wrong track--evidence that the governor's "great state, great governor" message had received a receptive audience among the electorate.

In the U.S. Senate contest, the reason most often cited by voters for choosing the candidate they did was that "he has the right political philosophy." And these voters selected Zschau by 5 to 4. But a close second on the criteria list was "experience," and Cranston won here hands down, by 11 to 1. Next came "trust," and again Cranston was referred by 3 to 2.

Put another way, nearly half of Cranston's support came from people who ranked "experience" as the No. 1 criteria for choosing a Senate candidate.

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