Poll: Karen Bass leads Rick Caruso in L.A. mayoral race

Rep. Karen Bass has built a double-digit lead in the Los Angeles mayoral race just over two months before Election Day, solidifying her base among the city’s Democratic voters and eroding Rick Caruso’s lead in the San Fernando Valley, new polls show.

Since beating Caruso by 7 points in the June primary, Bass has extended her lead over the businessman to 43% to 31%, with 24% tied, according to a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll published by Los Angeles was co-sponsored Times.

Bass has cemented support among Liberal and Democratic voters and garnered the lion’s share of those who voted for other candidates in the primary. She leads Caruso almost 2-to-1 among former supporters of councilor Kevin de León, who finished third in the primary, and wins overwhelmingly among supporters of Gina Viola, the progressive activist who finished fourth.

Bass also significantly narrowed the lead Caruso enjoyed in the Valley, the one region of the city the businessman won in the primary. The Valley accounted for 38% of the ballots cast in the primary and won there by 7.5 percentage points. Now, according to the poll, it’s up just 2 points.

Those numbers beg the question of whether the billionaire mall developer, which bombarded the Los Angeles airwaves with millions of dollars in advertising during the primary, can get back in the running and make the race more competitive if the runoff between the two enters its final phase.

“This is not a done deal” because of Caruso’s vast resources, said Paul Mitchell, a policy data analyst who has been following the race closely.

“It’s a 12-point lead where you’re going to have a huge amount of spending and Caruso will have an opportunity to try and re-introduce himself to the voters and also try to switch out more effectively than the voters, who support him.”

Nevertheless, Caruso begins the fall campaign in a deep hole. Although determining who a likely voter is this far in advance of the election is difficult, Bass’s lead among voters whose poll responses indicate they are most likely to vote grows to 21 points — 53% to 32 %, tied with 14%.

Bass, a six-year congresswoman who represents parts of the West Side and South Los Angeles, has several advantages for her – some of which her campaign spawned, others that involve changes throughout the political landscape.

Those advantages start with a far more favorable image among voters than Caruso.

About half of the registered voters surveyed, 49%, said they had a positive opinion of Bass, while 22% said they had a negative opinion, and 29% had no opinion.

Caruso’s numbers are significantly worse. 35% of respondents had a positive impression of it, while 40% had a negative opinion and 24% had no opinion.

“The positive-negative comparison between the two candidates is really striking,” said Mark DiCamillo, who led the poll and has been polling California voters for decades.

Bass has built her popularity and sizable lead on support from registered Democrats, people who identify as Strong Liberal and Black voters, and Liberal white voters. These groups make up the majority of voters in Los Angeles.

She leads Caruso by 40 points among registered Democrats, 30 points among voters who describe themselves as somewhat liberal, and nearly 70 points among those who describe themselves as strongly liberal.

Caruso has had some success with the moderates, a sizeable segment of the electorate, among whom he has a nine-point lead. Among people who identify as strongly conservative, who make up a small portion of the city’s registered voters, he has a 50-point lead.

The candidates’ images are similarly polarized along partisan and ideological lines, the poll found.

“Your image among Democrats is overwhelmingly positive and his is overwhelmingly negative,” DiCamillo said. “It almost looks like a Democrat versus a Republican on the ballot, although technically that’s not the case.”

The poll found that Bass and Caruso were essentially below Latino and Asian voters with about 34% of the vote. Black voters favored Bass with more than 40 points and she was 17 points below whites.

In LA counties with at least 80% Latino populations, Caruso received 34% of the primary vote and Bass received 27%, according to a Times analysis. Turnout in these Latino-heavy counties analyzed by The Times was just 17% — much lower than the 30% overall turnout.

This is the second poll in as many weeks where Bass comes out big. A poll released by an outside group that supports the congresswoman found it rose 11 percentage points among likely voters.

When asked what qualities they would like in their next mayor, voters in the Berkeley IGS poll gravitated towards qualities that better reflect Bass’s background than Caruso’s.

The poll found that 71% of voters said it’s important to have someone who is progressive, 75% want a mayor with experience in elected office, and 72% want someone with a history of abortion rights campaigners Has.

The only trait that might favor Caruso is that 77% want a candidate who is tough on crime.

Voters were far less interested in whether the candidate had a business background, was a political outsider or was a woman.

“If you look at the top 4, all of which were 70% or more, just one of them probably wouldn’t be associated with Bass as opposed to Caruso,” said Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, a professor of political science at USC – with the exception of crime.

When The Times asked similar questions in February, respondents ranked previous voting experience and progressive politics as the two most important qualities in a prospective mayor. In this poll, people who said previous experience was very important supported Bass by about a 40 point margin. Bass had similar advantages with people who said it was very important to have a progressive mayor and those who wanted a mayor with a long history of defending abortion rights.

Among voters who said it was very important to have a candidate who is tough on crime, Caruso leads the 47% to 29%.

He made crime a key focus of his enormous spring publicity streak — along with homelessness. But Bass seems to be able to solve the problem so far.

In July, Caruso loudly attacked Bass for supporting the city’s paralegal candidate Faisal Gill, who ran in part by promising a 100-day moratorium on prosecuting most new misdemeanor charges. The congresswoman then withdrew her consent to Gill.

Earlier in the campaign, she also advocated for more hiring by the Los Angeles Police Department.

While these positions angered some activists on the left, they don’t seem to have cost Bass many votes among progressives, even if they blunted Caruso’s attacks.

Caruso’s ads “were effective in defining him during the peak season and getting him where he’s going, but I think that was more of a ceiling than I expected,” Hancock Alfaro said.

Bass has also benefited from “the changes on the national front,” Hancock said — the renewed focus on women’s reproductive rights following the US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

Bass’ campaign has repeatedly pointed to her longstanding support for abortion rights and Caruso’s position on the issue. A journalist in a 2007 Los Angeles Magazine profile paraphrased Caruso’s views on the issue, writing, “He says he’s opposed to abortion in most cases, but would support some stem cell research.”

Caruso’s campaign declined to comment on those comments, but throughout the primary, the candidate said he would be a staunch supporter of reproductive rights if elected. He has also castigated the Supreme Court’s June decision.

Bill Carrick, who previously advised mayoral candidate Jessica Lall and now works with Robert Luna on his campaign for Los Angeles County sheriff, said Caruso’s past Republican affiliation was “the elephant in the room.”

Caruso needs to do a better job of explaining why he’s a Democrat, Carrick said, and sharpening his explanation for switching parties.

Caruso alternated between Republican and no party preference several times before becoming a Democrat in January.

Still, Carrick, a longtime pundit on California politics, said Caruso will be an exuberant activist this fall who will spend big to get his message across.

“He’s clearly planning an aggressive field operation and has obviously stepped up his retail campaigns,” Carrick said.

Bass can also benefit from the recent failure of Dist opponents. atty George Gascón to get a recall on the ballot.

If the signature collection had been successful, she might have been on the November ballot, although that was not a certainty. If it had, it would likely have increased turnout among conservative voters who disapprove of Gascón and favor Caruso.

The poll found that those in favor of the recall preferred Caruso at 57% to 24%. Caruso, a former LAPD commissioner, said earlier this year he supports the recall while Bass opposes it.

Had the recall gone on the ballot, it would have posed a serious threat to Gascón. The poll found that registered voters across the country would have voted 41% to 20% in favor of the recall, while the rest were undecided. Across the city, margin was a little tighter, with 37% supporting the recall, 23% opposed, and the rest undecided.

The UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll was conducted Aug. 9-15 among 4,538 registered voters in Los Angeles County. It included 1,746 voters in the city of Los Angeles, of whom 1,212 were classified as likely voters. The estimated margin of error for the registered voter sample is +/- 2.5 percentage points for the statewide sample and +/- 3 percentage points for the city.

Iris Lee, a Times contributor, contributed to this report.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-26/california-election-2022-bass-leads-caruso-poll Poll: Karen Bass leads Rick Caruso in L.A. mayoral race

Alley Einstein

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