Grand Park Election Night Party on November 6, 2012.
Loyola Marymount University's exit poll of Los Angeles residents shows that African American voters supported statewide tax measures and easing criminal justice penalties at higher levels than the region's other racial and ethnic groups.
Those results come as no surprise to Fernando J. Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at LMU, which organizes the quadrennial poll. He said African American Angelenos have been leading the city's, state's and nation's liberal shift for a long time.
"We've seen a trend of African Americans moving from the Republican to the Democratic party and now it's almost unanimous," Guerra said. African American support for President Obama's reelection was 93 percent nationally, and 99 percent in Los Angeles, according to the poll.
He said the poll also showed that Prop 30 would not have won statewide without the very high level of support it had from Los Angeles voters.
The LMU poll questioned voters at 10 polling places of each racial/ethnic category: White, Black/African American, Latino, Asian, and Mixed precincts. The margin of error for the entire poll is plus or minus 1.9 percent, and the margin of error for the African Americans and Latinos surveyed is about the same or smaller becasue those groups were over-sampled, Guerra said.
Los Angeles' African American voters voiced the strongest support for Prop 30's combined income and sales tax with four out of every five black voters polled saying they voted for Prop 30. About three-quarters of Latinos supported Prop 30.
The other major tax issue, Prop 38, which would have increased taxes on the highest income residents, failed statewide. However, 56 percent of the Black voters polled in Los Angeles said they favored it. Support for the measure was in the 40s for Asians and Latinos, and got only 29 percent support among the poll's white voters.
Measure J, a Los Angeles County measure to continue a one-half cent sales tax for 30 years, needs a two-thirds majority to pass, and with at least 300,000 mail-in and provisional ballots yet to be counted, appeared to be losing with about 64.7 percent. On this measure 64 percent of black voters said they supported the tax, while about 60 percent of Latino, white and Asian voters said they approved.
Prop 34, to eliminate California's death penalty failed statewide, but the exit poll of Los Angeles voters found 62 percent favored getting rid of it. The poll said 70 percent of blacks favored eliminating executions, while just 45 percent of the Asian voters polled agreed. Latinos and whites were in the middle with about 63 percent favoring the end of capital punishment.
The other criminal justice measure on the ballot, Prop 36, to revise the Three Strikes Law passed statewide. Prop 36 also found high favor among white and black Los Angeles voters with about 80 percent favoring the revision, according to the poll. The Three Strikes law gave long prison terms to felons who committed a third crime, even one that might not be as serious as prior offenses.
The question of whether foods carrying genetically modified ingredients should have special labels also showed strong differences between black and other voters in Los Angeles. The poll said 68 percent of black voters favored Prop 37, but only 55 to 58 percent of Asian, white and Latino voters said they voted for it.
Voters cast their ballots in the McDonald's Playroom in Hollywood on November 6th, 2012.
Among all the numbers emerging from Election Day, here's a significant one: About one-million fewer Californians appear to have turned out to vote this year than in 2008, according to exit polls and the California Secretary of State.
Turnout in the state is expected to be close to 70 percent, according to a Field Poll estimate. However the actual number won't be known until counties finish processing mail-in and provisional ballots – expected no later than mid-December. Turnout in the 2008 election was 77.5 percent.
While all voting groups turned out in lower absolute numbers, the percentage of different groups' participation as voters reflects the growing diversity of California's population and the increasing willingness of some traditionally low-turnout groups to cast ballots.
Black voters were not a disproportionate part of that missing million. The rate of participation among African American voters remained constant in the state – about eight percent of the electorate.
Voting is especially strong among black voters ages 18 to 29, said Peter Levine, who studies the youth vote as director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.
"African-American youth have very high turnout, often the highest turnout of any young group, so they are more than pulling their weight among young voters," he said. "And their desire to vote is not just a product of enthusiasm for Barack Obama because it goes back to a big jump that first occurred in 2004."
Some pollsters said young voters weren't as engaged this year. But, at least in California, young voters of all races and ethnicities turned out in strong numbers on Tuesday – making up 28 percent of the electorate – that is eight points higher than in 2008.
"It looks like fewer people voted in California in 2012 than in 2008, but a higher proportion of people who voted were young," Levine said.
That's partly because the millennial generation is more engaged in everything – politics, news, social media. But the political parties also reached out to young voters. Prop 30 supporters mobilized to get college-age and other young voters to support that tax measure's promises to forestall budget cuts and tuition increases.
What about Latino voters? Were they a big part of the missing million?
University of California, Irvine political scientist Louis DiSipio said exit polls indicate Latinos increased their share of ballots cast in the presidential election to 22 percent of the electorate, up four points from the last one.
"The electorate in California in 2012 got closer to the diversity of the population as a whole," DiSipio said.
The participation of Asian-American voters was up to 11 percent, two points more than in 2008, according to exit polls. In California, voters can get language assistance at polling places in a half-dozen Asian languages.
University of California, Riverside political scientist Karthick Ramakrishnan said Asian-American voters were particularly motivated by the education-centric campaign for Prop 30, and a desire to support Asian candidates.
Which brings us to the white vote.
Non-Hispanic whites remain the biggest portion of the electorate, but their voting numbers are swiftly declining. They represented only about 55 percent of the turnout in California–down eight points from 2008.