A new poll released by the Long Beach Center for Urban Politics and Policy at Cal State Long Beach indicates that citywide races like the mayor, city attorney and city auditor are tightly contested headed into the June 7 primary, with the majority of voters undecided on who they will select in some key races.
The poll was conducted by faculty and students at Cal State Long Beach and the University of Southern California with 1,037 residents participating.
Christian Grose, who teaches political science and international relations and public policy at USC, said that the idea to do the poll came about in part because Long Beach is a big city but rarely gets the type of political attention that Los Angeles or other large cities in the state get. Grose was one of the lead researchers on the poll.
The poll asked people who they were likely to vote for in the mayor, city attorney, city auditor and city prosecutor races and broke out data based on ethnicity, income, age, party affiliation and other attributes.
Three races essentially have statistical ties when accounting for the poll’s 3-point margin of error. The only race with a clear frontrunner is city prosecutor, where the incumbent, Doug Haubert, has a 10-point advantage. But, even then, over 65% of voters said they were undecided in that contest.
In the two races that will likely be decided June 7, because they each have only two candidates, the candidates were close. For City Attorney, Gerrie Schipske (24.4%) led Dawn McIntosh (19.2%) with over 56% of voters still undecided. For City Auditor, incumbent Laura Doud (21.5%) held a slim advantage over challenger Dan Miles (18.8%).
Grose noted that when factoring in the margin of error, both of these races were virtually tied.
Many undecided voters are likely not paying much attention to Long Beach races yet, according to Grose.
“Local elections in California are now paired with Congressional midterms and statewide elections when they previously weren’t, so they’re not getting as much attention, or there’s crowdedness for attention,” he said.
The lack of attention or decisiveness in local elections could mean that the mayoral race is destined for a runoff. The two leading candidates are Councilmembers Rex Richardson (23.4%) and Suzie Price (22.5%) with 45% of people polled saying they hadn’t made up their minds.
“If the election were today, those two would be going forward and there would be a runoff; it’s unlikely that one would get to 50%,” Grose said. A candidate can win any race on June 7 and avoid a runoff by securing over 50% of the vote.
J. Raul Cedillo was the next closest mayoral candidate with 3.6% support in the poll. Cumulatively, the rest of the field had about 9% support.
One thing that could change the runoff scenario is if some kind of shakeup, like a campaign event, a scandal or a negative mailer were able to swing enough of the undecided block in one direction over the next 10 days.
Currently, the poll shows Richardson performing better with younger and less affluent voters while Price was doing better with older voters with higher incomes. While both front runners are Democrats, Richardson is outpacing Price among Democrats, according to the poll.
In a runoff situation, Richardson had a lead of about 10 percentage points among Democratic voters polled and Price had a nearly 36-percentage-point lead with Republican voters. Both were tied among Independents.
Grose said that in a city like Long Beach, where there are far more registered Democratic voters, being ahead with Republican voters might not be meaningful. But he noted that Price had a significant enough share of the Democratic vote that it could pave the way to victory.
“This is the kind of thing you see when two Democrats run against each other for Congress, state legislature, or even in Los Angeles, Grose said. “Sometimes they win with a cross-partisan coalition even if they are a Democrat.”
Latino voters could be the key to either candidate winning, Grose said. In a runoff situation, both are virtually tied among Latinos with 43% of those voters saying they were undecided. That was the second-largest undecided block next to multiracial voters, who were supporting Price at a 3-2 margin.
People polled were all registered voters in Long Beach who indicated they were going to vote or already had voted in the primary. The poll was conducted between May 19 and May 25. The margin of error for the poll was 3.04%, with that margin getting larger when examining things like ethnicity or party affiliation.
Aside from asking about who voters were most likely to vote for, the poll also asked if they thought the city and state were headed in the right direction.
There was almost an even split among voters who thought Long Beach was headed in the right direction (31.6%) and those who thought it wasn’t (33.4%), which was similar to feelings about the state. Nearly 37% thought California was headed in the right direction but 40.9% thought it was headed in the wrong direction.
Younger voters under the age of 30 and those over the age of 59 showed more optimism for both the city and the state’s direction and Grose said that could be because they’re at different parts of their lives and are not being affected as strongly by things like inflation, rising gas prices and housing affordability.
The primary election is June 7. Some citywide election centers will open for in-person voting Saturday. A full list of in-person voting centers can be found here. The locations of the 17 vote-by-mail drop boxes throughout the city can be found here.