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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS : Immigration Was No. 1 Election Issue, Local Voters Say : Exit poll: Half of those questioned said Prop. 187 was the leading factor in deciding who to vote for.

November 10, 1994|HUGO MARTIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

While San Fernando and Santa Clarita valley residents generally followed statewide voting trends, they cited illegal immigration more often than other voters as the most important issue in deciding who to cast their ballots for, according to exit polls conducted by The Times.

Half of all local voters polled said illegal immigration was the deciding factor in the election, while only 39% of voters statewide considered it the most important issue.

Apparently due to their concern over illegal immigration, local voters walked lock-step with voters statewide in overwhelmingly supporting Proposition 187, the controversial measure to cut free state services to illegal immigrants.

Local voters backed the anti-illegal immigration measure by 61%, while voters statewide voted 59% in support, according to interviews with 1,324 voters in 20 polling places in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys. The poll has a margin of sampling error of three points in either direction.

Irene Tovar, a Latino activist in the San Fernando Valley, said immigration strikes a nerve among middle-class residents who resent minorities moving into once-predominantly white neighborhoods.

"I think there has been a resentment because some of them have felt it was their Valley," she said.

But Councilman Richard Alarcon, who represents an ethnically diverse community in the northeast Valley, said some voters may not be racists but simply believe the problem has gotten out of hand.

"I'm sure that there were people of all ethnicities who made their decisions (based on a concern over illegal immigration) not just middle-class whites," he said.

John Brennan, director of The Times Poll, said it was not surprising that illegal immigration was a bigger issue among local voters while support for Proposition 187 was not substantially higher than statewide.

"Immigration and 187 are not exactly the same issue," he said, adding that some local voters may believe the measure will not address the problem.

Crime, which had been the top concern of local residents in recent years, dropped behind illegal immigration as the most important issue, with 36% of voters citing it as the deciding factor. Thirty-three percent of voters statewide said crime was the most important issue.

Reflecting statewide sentiments, 80% of Proposition 187 supporters in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys said they backed the measure to send a message.

More than half of local Proposition 187 supporters also said they backed the measure to force the federal government to face the problem.

The poll also showed that local voters under the age of 30 supported the anti-illegal immigration measure 54% to 46%, in contrast to the statewide opposition of 53% to 47% among the same age group.

The poll showed that Latinos in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys voted 75% against Proposition 187, compared to 77% statewide. White voters locally voted 65% in support of the measure, compared to 63% statewide.

How the Poll Was Conducted

The Times Poll interviewed 5,336 voters as they exited 85 polling places across the state, including an oversampling of 1,324 San Fernando Valley and Santa Clarita voters. Precincts were chosen based on the pattern of turnout in past general elections. The survey was by confidential questionnaire. The margin of sampling error for percentages based on the entire sample and the Valley each is plus or minus 3 percentage points. For some subgroups, the error margin may be somewhat higher. Because the survey does not include absentee voters or those who declined to participate when approached, actual returns and demographic estimates by the interviewers were used to slightly adjust the sample. Davis Market Research Services Inc. of Calabasas assisted The Times in this poll.

The Valley Vote

San Fernando Valley and statewide exit poll responses.

Governor's race

Valley Wilson: 55% Brown: 40% Other: 5% State: Wilson: 55% Brown: 40% Other: 5% ***

Senate race

Valley Feinstein: 49% Huffington: 42% Other: 9% State: Feinstein: 47% Huffington: 45% Other: 8% ***

Proposition 187

Valley: For: 61% Against: 39% State: For: 59% Against: 41% ***

Which issues, if any, were most important to you in deciding how to vote? Participants were allowed to choose up to two issues.

Valley Illegal immigration: 50% Crime: 36% Taxes: 25% Education: 17% Health care: 14% Ethics in government: 11% Morality and family issues: 7% Economy / Jobs: 6% Bringing business to the state: 4% Environment: 3% State budget: 3% None of the above: 3% ***

State: Illegal immigration: 39% Crime: 33% Taxes: 28% Education: 22% Health care: 13% Ethics in government: 13% Economy / Jobs: 10% Morality and family issues: 9% Environment: 4% State budget: 3% Bringing business to the state: 3% None of the above: 4% Source: Los Angeles Times California Exit Poll

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