Newsom Survived But It Was a Closer Call in Beverly Hills

The voters have spoken! Only 37% of voters supported the recall and that is well short of the 50% threshold necessary to unseat Governor Gavin Newsom. However Beverly Hills voters were more likely to support the recall than our neighbors. The fact is that a deep red conservative streak runs through Beverly Hills and that makes us something of an outlier in the region. How did the recall vote break? Let’s look at the precincts!

Voters in Beverly Hills supported the recall of Governor Newsom by a greater margin than both state and county voters. And not by a whisker: support ran 7 percentage points higher here than statewide and 15 percentage points higher than the county.

Recall 2012 chart: Beverly Hills compared to county and state
Source: Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters. Chart by Renters Alliance.

The spread between Beverly Hills support for the recall and support in neighboring cities yawned even wider. Even though we all experienced the economic disruptions due to COVID–19, and we all share the same labor and housing markets, somehow voters in Los Angeles, Santa Monica and West Hollywood were much less in favor of unseating the governor.

Recall 2012 chart: Beverly Hills compared to other municipalities
Source: Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters. Chart by Renters Alliance.

Just look at the difference: support for the recall in Beverly Hills was nearly double that in City of Los Angeles and nearly three times that of liberal West Hollywood. And that raises a couple of questions. First, is Beverly Hills really that much of an outlier in our region? And second, is the recall vote a credible proxy for Beverly Hills voter attitude toward progressivism in general?

On the first question, Beverly Hills does appear to be an outlier. In the 2020 election Beverly Hills was a dab of red in a large field of blue when the Trump reelection campaign secured a majority in electoral precincts north of Santa Monica Boulevard. Remember the map?

Trump-Pence 2020 majority precincts map
Map generated by Los Angeles Times based on County Registrar Data. Beverly Hills north precincts are a near-lone island of Trump/Pence support across the Southland.

A similar dynamic prevailed in the 2021 recall election too. This Los Angeles Times map shows how nearly every electoral precinct in the Southland rejected the recall (and most rejected it decisively) except for those north side precincts.

Recall 2012 map: Beverly Hills in the region
Source: Los Angeles Times recall results interactive map.

Even in precincts where voters rejected the recall, support leaned much closer to the 50% threshold than did our neighbors. Those precincts along Wilshire Boulevard averaged about 45% support. The broad and relatively strong support for the recall suggests that our city is indeed an outlier!

However not all Beverly Hills voters are like-minded. The recall election results show considerable variation across precincts. The difference in support for the recall in north and south precincts ranged as much as 27 percentage points.

Recall 2012 map: two Beverly Hills precints compared
Source: Los Angeles Times recall results interactive map. Illustration by Renters Alliance.

Even though only a few miles separates these precincts they are a world apart when it comes to voter attitude about the governor.

Strong Support in the North, Less in the South

To examine the difference in support for the recall across the city we looked at preliminary election results from the Los Angeles County Registrar. Then we adapted the excellent interactive election data map from the Los Angeles Times to show precinct level data on one map.

Recall 2012 map: Beverly Hills precints compared
Source: Los Angeles County Registrar data. Los Angeles Times recall results interactive map adapted by Renters Alliance.

Clearly support for the recall was concentrated in the precincts to the north. We might say that voter attitude correlates with latitude: where a voter lived went a long way toward predicting that voter’s support for the recall.

Those north precincts well-surpassed the 50% threshold for recall and indeed few precincts in the Southern California region favored recall to the degree as did our neighbors in the flats and beyond.

At the same time support for recall was not nearly as robust in the south. Just over one-third (36%) of voters in three precincts south of Wilshire on average favored the recall. Again that is a 27 percentage point difference between precincts that are a stone’s throw apart.

Even more curious is that band across the Wilshire corridor from the flats near El Rodeo through the 90211 zip code. In these precincts 45% of voters on average favored recall though no precinct exceeded the 50% threshold. Why would voter attitudes align in these precincts when they would appear to not have very much in common?

In the flats the lots are larger and the home values higher. East of La Cienega a mix of small-lot homes and apartments would appear to have more in common with neighbors in nearby City of Los Angeles where overall only 23% of voters favored recall. Is it something in our water — or just an abiding conservatism in our bones?

Let’s Talk About Larry

Larry Elder was one of the 46 candidates running to replace Governor Newsom. He is a broadcast commentator with wide reach across the state and he proved to be the most popular of the candidates. He won over 48% of voters statewide according to recall election results despite controversial on-air statements, alleged financial improprieties and even a charge of abuse from a former partner.

Yet his 35 percentage point margin over every challenger was sufficient to identify him as the putative leader of the state’s Republican Party. And his campaign tied him to Trump in word and deed. So what level of support did this candidate, derisively called “the Black face of white supremacy,” win in Beverly Hills?

Larry Elder proved very popular in north area precincts winning 53% of the vote. In these precincts his support bested his overall statewide support by a whopping 15 percentage points.

However Elder was far less favored in precincts south of Wilshire. There his share of the vote trailed his statewide support by more than 10 percentage points.

The interesting aspect about Elder’s support in Beverly Hills is how closely it parallels support for the recall generally. Our chart shows how closely correlated was that aspect of the recall vote.

Recall 2012 chart: Elder results compared to field and recall
Source: Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters. Chart by Renters Alliance.

What can we infer? The more likely a Beverly Hills voter was to favor recall the more conservative they leaned. In precincts where recall support ran strong, so did Larry Elder; in precincts where support for the recall diminished Elder’s numbers ticked down accordingly. This recalls the transitive property from middle-school mathematics: If support for the recall leaned conservative, and conservatives leaned toward Elder, the Trump candidate, then support for the recall to some degree aligns with the Trump-supporting segment of the electorate.

Do you disagree with that back-of-the-envelope reasoning? Then get in touch with Renters Alliance!

Beverly Hills: Conservative Outlier

City voter support for the recall recalls the 2020 election: Beverly Hills skewed conservative on social justice and fiscal issues in 2020 (as we noted in our earlier analysis, Election 2020: Beverly Hills Steps to the Right. See the chart at the bottom).

Take for example Proposition 20. It would have restricted parole to a smaller number of felony offenders and also would have recategorized some retail theft to charge offenders with a felony. It is a ‘tough-on-crime’ measure that also would also have collected DNA from those convicted of a misdemeanor crimes such as shoplifting, grand theft, and drug possession.

Beverly Hills voters liked that proposition so much that we supported it by a 7 percentage point margin compared to voters in our state that is legendary for tough-on-crime measures like ‘three strikes.’ (The measure was defeated when 62% of state voters rejected it.)

Another example: Proposition 17 amended the constitution to restore the voting rights of persons who were disqualified from voting while serving a prison term. State voters approved of that measure by 59% to 41% (an 18 percentage point margin). But Beverly Hills support trailed by 4 percentage points and the gap between Beverly Hills and county voters was nearly 11 percentage points.

Proposition 16 would have allowed local governments in California to consider race and ethnicity when hiring. It did not pass because only 44% of voters statewide approved. In Beverly Hills support dropped to 40%. The gap between Beverly Hills and county voters was also 11 percentage points.

Measures that would have redistributed wealth found even less favor in Beverly Hills!

Proposition 19 would have rolled-back the tax break on inherited income-producing real estate. It barely passed statewide but support in Beverly Hills was 11 percentage points lower. Only 40% of voters here thought that inherited income-producing property should be taxed at current assessed value rather than a value that was frozen by Prop 13 as long as four decades ago.

Proposition 15 would have “split the tax roll” to allow commercial properties to be taxed at current assessed values. Today commercial property investors many be paying real estate tax on a decades-old appraised value thanks to Prop 13. State voters rejected Proposition 15 by a slim margin but support in Beverly Hills for property tax reform was a full 9 percentage points lower. (At the county level voters approved it.)

Then there is rent control: Proposition 21 went down to defeat statewide but support in Beverly Hills for expanding rent control was even less than state voters. In contrast Los Angeles County voters supported expanded rent control by an 11 percentage point margin over Beverly Hills. It is a head-scratcher because 60% of city households rent their housing.

Beverly Hills voters did find something we liked in 2020: a measure that jettisoned employment benefits for app-based drivers. Proposition 22 went down to defeat after Uber and Lyft spent $200 million to strip their drivers of employment benefits. Proposition 22 was a complicated measure and it passed with the statewide support of 58% of voters. Here 62% of the electorate voted to keep shared rides cheap.

Takeaway: It’s Not Just the North

Beverly Hills voters leaned more conservative than state voters on every single 2020 ballot measure. Conservatism is not limited to the north precincts but characterizes our electorate as a whole. And that makes Beverly Hills an outlier in the region.

2020 Ballot measures results table
Source: data from Los Angeles Registrar of Voters. Table by Renters Alliance.