What to expect when you’re expecting a president: StudyLA survey predicts outcomes of the 2020 general election

Thursday, October 29, 2020

What to expect when you’re expecting a president: StudyLA survey predicts outcomes of the 2020 general election

by Erica Riray

Voters know who they want to win, but experts in politics and government can tell you who will based on trends, statistics and polls. These predictions will either put voters’ minds at ease or mobilize them even further. 

LMU Political Science professor Dr. Fernando Guerra serves as the director of the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles (StudyLA), a public opinion research organization and undergraduate research center founded at LMU. StudyLA uses research, student mentorship and engagement with the Los Angeles community to advocate for a more equitable community, or as Dr. Guerra puts it: “how to do research to make society better.”

Guerra, along with LMU Political Science professor Dr. Michael Genovese and Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson, J.D., teaches “Campaigns and Elections,” an LMU course focusing on the 2020 presidential election. The course gives students a deeper understanding of democracy while also encouraging students to contribute to the electoral process by serving as election workers.  

Assisted by StudyLA faculty Alejandra Alarcon, Max Dunsker and Jorge Cortes, Dr. Guerra gave students a first look at StudyLA’s survey on top political thought leaders’ predictions for the 2020 general election. 

The respondents included 174 elected officials, academics, philanthropists, lobbyists, corporate executives and leaders of neighborhood councils that either reside or work in Los Angeles County. Among these respondents were LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, LMU President Timothy Law Snyder and several other LMU faculty members. 

The results from these predictions are based on the expert opinion of trends in public thought, analysis of the election campaigns so far and probable voter turnouts. The full report will be made available on their website along with their other reports on the Los Angeles community.

Who will win the presidency?

  • Angelenos predict a landslide victory for Democratic Nominee Joe Biden. 86.2% predict the former Vice President will win the presidency and 77% of these respondents are confident in their predictions. 

  • 13.8% predict Republican Nominee Donald Trump will win the presidency. 50% of these respondents are confident in their results. 

Which party will have control over the Senate?

  • 65.1% predict that Democrats will flip the Senate. 

  • 34.9% predict that Republicans will keep their majority.

If Kamala Harris resigned from the Senate to become Vice President, whom do you think California Governor Gavin Newsom would appoint to fill her seat?

  • 35.2% predict that Gov. Newsom will appoint the current California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

  • 16.9% predict he will choose current Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. 

  • 14.8% predict he will choose current California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. 

Respondents listed other potential appointments in the full report, which included the possibility that Gov. Newsom would appoint himself.  

Who will win the Congressional seat in District 25 of California?

  • 52.9% predict Democrat Christy Smith will be the victor. 

  • 47.1% predict that the incumbent Republican Mike Garcia will keep his seat.

Who will win the Los Angeles District Attorney race?

  • 63.6% believe former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón will win.

  • 36.5% predict incumbent Jackie Lacey will keep her seat.

Dr. Guerra believes that this is the most important local race on the 2020 ballot given the size of LA County and the rising criticism of Jackie Lacey’s policies on police brutality and the Black community. 

What will voter turnout look like?

  • The average prediction is that 71.5% of registered voters in LA County will vote and that 64.5% of those voters will vote by mail.

What to do with these results:

These results are not meant to be taken as reality. Dr. Guerra has been a pollster for years, but he still says “it’s good to be skeptical,” and that the main goal of the study was to “see the degree the political class influences the outcomes of the election.” 

The projections voters see in polls and reports like StudyLA’s are based on historical voter turnout trends. There are more eligible people registered to vote in California than there have been in the past 100 years. This combined with the fact that there are more registered Democrats than Republicans leads Dr. Guerra to believe that polls may be “underreporting” the support for Biden if Americans vote by their registered party (which they usually do).

“If there’s enthusiasm from young voters who have never voted before, they aren’t accounted for in poll results,” says Dr. Guerra. 

Prof. Levinson also reminds voters that young people (18-24-year-olds) have “the power to sway elections” as a generation that makes up 10% of the electorate.

For real-time updates on the projections of the presidential election, visit FiveThirtyEight’s 2020 Election Forecast. LMU’s Student Psychological Services has also created election stress resources for members of our community to acknowledge the anxiety and stress of waiting for these results.

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