Orange County has had a long history of being a heavily Republican county in a largely blue state, as the home of Richard Nixon’s western White House and the birthplace of Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign. But a recent poll by Chapman faculty suggests that trend is changing.
Fred Smoller, a political science professor and Michael Moodian, an integrated educational studies professor, conducted a poll from Feb. 6 to Mar. 4, which revealed that, out of the 706 Orange County residents who participated in the study, only 37 percent approved of Donald Trump’s performance as president.
“This survey suggests that there’s a real disconnect between the community’s political leaders and the population,” Smoller said. “This result explains why Hillary Clinton was the first Democrat to win the (popular vote in Orange County) in 80 years.”
Smoller, who said the poll’s purpose is to provide a “snapshot” of public opinion, would like to conduct the survey once a year, to get a sense of what political direction Orange County is headed.
This poll revealed critical new data regarding the different political values Orange County holds, Moodian said.
“Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump, (which was the) first time since (Franklin D. Roosevelt) that a Democrat presidential nominee won the popular vote in Orange County,” he said.
Moodian said that it’s surprising that Trump has a lower approval rating in what has always been viewed as a Republican area.
“As the county’s demographics are changing, views are changing,” Moodian said. “We’re seeing now an Orange County that looks much more like the rest of the nation as opposed to being this red county outlier.”
The shooting in Parkland, Florida, occurred during the time period the survey was being conducted, Moodian said, and 71 percent of the participants believe that the government does not do enough to regulate access to guns. But Jake Ummel, president of the Chapman Republicans, called the poll’s validity into question because he believes that the people who were polled were not representative of the population.
“Supposedly, 41 percent of respondents were ‘Republican’ but a large majority of the people who responded were answering in affirmative for very liberal values, such as being pro-gun control,” Ummel said.
While Ummel was surprised by the results, Chapman Democrats President Olivia Kellet said that the 37 percent approval rate is pretty in line with what she saw in Orange County during the election.
Although Orange County is shifting politically, Moodian said that it’s not the voters who are changing, it’s the county’s demographics.
“This has been driven by the Latino electorate. It’s been driven by Asian Americans and it’s been driven by the young,” Moodian said. “There’s still a very, very powerful strong core Republican base in Orange County, but that core tends to be an older demographic, which is not necessarily a growth demographic.”
That “powerful core” is evident in several Orange County cities, where residents fought to oppose California’s sanctuary state bill.
At an April 10 Orange City Council meeting, where nearly 100 people were scheduled to speak, council members voted 3-2 not to comply with sections of the bill.
Smoller said that the county’s demographics have shifted in a way that means its values aren’t reflected by its representatives.
“The white men who came after World War II are being replaced by much more tolerant younger people and Latinos,” Smoller said. “This November will be very competitive for Democrats.”