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Pensions, Public Housing, Transportation Split San Diego Voters On Party Lines

What you think about pensions, public housing, transportation and land use may depend on whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican. That’s according to UC San Diego political scientist Craig Burnett.

UC San Diego researchers surveyed San Diego voters on their opinions of local candidates and local issues. They found unexpected results.

Photo credit: Carl DeMaio for Mayor

Mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio talks to reporters after voting.

Before November’s election, he worked with another researcher, Vlad Kogan, to survey some San Diego voters on their opinions of local candidates and local issues. They emailed surveys to local voters and found unexpected results.

While you would think Democrats and Republicans would be deeply divided on hot button national issues like gay marriage and abortion, Burnett found they’re divided on generic local issues as well.

For example, his survey asked voters if they thought San Diego should end pensions for city employees. Both Democrats and Republicans favored the move, but there was a stark difference in the results. While just over 50 percent of Democrats supported ending pensions, almost 86 percent of Republicans favored it.

“This is not necessarily expected, because we think that non-partisan races are not supposed to be very polarized," Burnett said. "But what we’re finding actually is that issues at the local level tend to be more polarized than you might think.”

Burnett said they also found 30 to 40 percent gaps in Democrats' and Republicans' opinions toward public housing, transportation and land use.

He was also surprised to learn that voters’ view of unions and their view of then-mayoral candidate Bob Filner aren’t strongly connected. He expected voters who support unions would support Filner, and voters who oppose unions would oppose Filner.

“While there’s definitely those effects, they’re not very strong effects, so that’s left us wondering, well what exactly are the value of these endorsements in local elections?” Burnett said.

Burnett hopes to expand his research to other cities to see if they are as polarized over local issues as San Diego is.

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