California is bucking the national trend by sending incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer back to Washington. (see full California Results)
In preliminary CBS News exit poll results, Californians approve of the way President Obama is handling his job (54%), which is the opposite of the national mood. Nationally 45% of all voters approve of the president's job performance. Voters in the Golden State have a more positive opinion of the Democratic Party (50%) than they have of the Republican Party (34%). (see the full exit poll)
And their feelings about the Tea Party movement are divided. Roughly a third of voters are both supporters and opponents of the movement, while 25% have no opinion. And 57% say that the Tea Party movement was not a factor in their vote for Senator on Election Day. Voters in this group lean toward Boxer.
Health care is a big issue for the Tea Party movement and the Republican Party overall. They want to repeal health care reform just passed this year in Congress. According to the CBS News exit poll, 37% want to expand the new health care law, 16% want to leave it as is and 40% want to repeal it. (Nationally, 48% want to repeal the new law).
Among California voters who want to repeal the new law, 84% voted for Fiorina, while Boxer got most of the voters who say they are for either expanding the new health law or leaving it as is. One other major issue for both the Senate and governor's race is illegal immigration. Illegal immigration is a major issue (compared to the strong anti-immigration law in Arizona) and two-thirds of the voters support a chance for these undocumented workers to apply for legal status (and most of these voters supported Boxer).
Boxer won a long, hard fought campaign to recapture her seat. She's been in office 18 years, while running against Republican candidate Carly Fiorina. Fiorina had no political experience but was CEO of Hewlett Packard. The advertising campaigns were brutal: Boxer's ads saying that Fiorina let go 30,000 jobs as CEO of HP and shipped them overseas. Fiorina's ads saying that Boxer is in office too long. accomplished nothing and is out of touch with Californians.
Unlike Californians, Fiorina was much more conservative than the constituency she wanted to serve. California is not a conservative state like Arizona and other sunbelt states and has voted for a Democratic president the last three elections - there are more registered Democrats than Republicans, yet declined-to-states (independents) are increasing each election year. Right now declined-to-states are about one out of every five voters. The issues that are important to the electorate align more with what Boxer stands for than her opponent. The Democratic senator is a strong pro-choice candidate, against off-shore oil drilling and was against the war in Iraq. The opposite of what Fiorina thinks, plus she was endorsed by Sarah Palin who has a high unfavorable rating in the state.
According to CBS News Exit Poll a look at some demographic groups that supported both candidates:
- Nearly three out of five women voters are supporting Boxer, while male voters give Boxer a slim three point advantage.
- The white vote, which is 61% of voters are backing Fiorina over Boxer (53% vs. 44%); Latinos, who make up 22% of the electorate give Boxer 68% of their vote, compared to 28% for Fiorina and 9% of the electorate is black. This group is overwhelmingly backing Boxer (82%).
- All age groups, except for those voters who are 65 and over support Boxer.
- Households with income less than $50,000 are going for Boxer almost two to one (63% vs 33%), while households earning $100,000 or more back Fiorina giving her a 10 point lead over her opponent.
- Voters in all education levels support Boxer over her opponent.
- Nearly three in 10 (27%) voters have a positive view of the way the federal government is working and they are backing Boxer overwhelmingly. Conversely, 71% of voters have a negative view of government and 56% are backing Fiorina .
- Voters think that both reducing the budget deficit and spending to create jobs should be the highest priority for the next Congress. Among those who say create jobs, almost three-quarters voted for Boxer, while those who want to reduce the deficit are giving Fiorina a slight lead - 49% to 47%.
The CBS News exit poll was conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool. Preliminary results are based on 3,809 voters in California interviewed either after exiting the polls across the state or by telephone for early voters. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.
Susan H. Pinkus is the former director of the Los Angeles Times Poll and is now doing her own public opinion research at S. H. Pinkus Research & Associates.