Sunday, November 15, 2009

California Politics

The Rose Institute offers a good overview of California congressional races. The post nicely summarizes the statewide setting following the withdrawal of Gavin Newsom from the gubernatorial race last week:

Jerry Brown will likely be the Democrats’ gubernatorial nominee, and incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer will be the nominee for Senate. While both Brown and Boxer may run strong campaigns, neither one will create the excitement that Obama created in 2008 that helped Democrat congressional candidates down the ballot. Republican incumbents who had close elections in 2008 because of Obama will likely face a more favorable climate in 2010.

In a forthcoming issue of The Forum, I have a review of Seth Masket's excellent No Middle Ground: How Information Party Organizations Control Nominations and Polarize Legislatures. A recent article in The Sacramento Bee tends to confirm Masket's analysis:

On average, individual Democrats in the California Legislature voted with the majority of their party or abstained 99 times out of 100 this session. Republicans, on average, voted with the majority of their party or abstained 96 out of every 100 times. "California is by far the most polarized state legislature" in the nation, said professor Boris Shor, with the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy Studies, who recently published a study on the ideological composition of legislatures. "California makes the U.S. Congress look like tiddlywinks."

An analysis in the Los Angeles Times describes the geography of state polarization:

There is a yawning gulf between the left-leaning coastal regions that feed California's stereotype and the right-leaning inland areas that seem firmly planted in Middle America rather than the land of the Beach Boys.

Demographically, the poll demonstrated, the two populations are distinct.

Inland voters are far more likely to be religious. Almost half were Protestant -- a reflection of the strong evangelical movement -- though that was true of only three in 10 coastal voters. Church attendance, which political analysts see as a key indicator of political behavior -- the more often one attends services, the more reliably conservative the vote -- was also different. In inland areas, almost four in 10 voters said they went to services at least once a week, while three in 10 coastal voters made that claim.

Inland voters were older, more conservative and more likely to be married and white than coastal voters. Interestingly, location seemed at times to trump race or gender. Latino voters who live in the area espoused more conservative views than their coastal brethren. Two-thirds of coastal Latinos were registered Democrats; fewer than half of inland Latinos were. One third of coastal Latinos described themselves as "liberal," twice the proportion of inland Latinos.

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