Despite stubborn financial problems and reductions in city services, a majority of L.A. voters give departing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa good marks, a USC Price/Los Angeles Times poll has found.
In a telephone survey conducted last week, nearly 53% of respondents said they had a favorable view of the mayor, who was barred by law from seeking a third four-year term. He leaves office this summer.
Nearly 42% of voters said they viewed Villaraigosa unfavorably. Whites were about evenly split -- 46.3% viewed the city's first Latino mayor in modern history favorably; 46.9% had an unfavorable view. Latinos were lopsidedly supportive of the mayor -- 71.4% saw him favorably, and 27.7% did not.
There were some perhaps predictable differences between members of the two major political parties. Villaraigosa, a Democrat holding a technically nonpartisan office, got a thumbs up from 63% of Democrats but only 25% of Republicans.
Voters will choose between Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel in a May 21 election to succeed Villaraigosa.
The USC Sol Price School of Public Policy/Los Angeles Times City Election Poll surveyed 500 likely voters over a three-day period beginning Monday. It was conducted by Benenson Strategy Group, a Democratic firm, and M4 Strategies, a Republican firm, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
Voters' approval of Villaraigosa climbed slightly from a USC Price/Times survey conducted about seven weeks ago. Then, 47% of voters viewed him favorably and 43.8% unfavorably; among whites, the results were 39.9% to 52.7%. Only Latinos favored him strongly -- he earned a 60% favorable rating from that group, contrasted with 30.8% with a negative view of him.
Pollster Amy Levin of Benenson said Villaraigosa's favorable numbers also indicate "there is not a strong anti-incumbent, anti-City Hall sentiment in this electorate."
"They are not looking for radical change," Levin said.
Chris St. Hilaire, with polling firm M4, suggested that Villaraigosa's imminent departure could be a factor in his strengthening poll numbers.
"When the guests are leaving the party," he said, "there is a tendency to like them better."