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Balance of whites, nonwhites on L.A. voter rolls closer to reality, Times poll finds

July 6, 2009 |  8:44 am

A decade ago, political analysts talked about a significant gap between the population of the city of Los Angeles (mostly Latino and black) and its voters (mostly white).

Today, there is almost no gap -- at least not between registered voters and the citizen population -- according to Census data and a recently released Los Angeles Times Poll. The poll was conducted for the Times by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Public Opinion Strategies.

The city of Los Angeles has almost 2.9 million residents 18 or older, according to the latest Census data. Not quite 2 million of those residents are U.S. citizens. And of those, about 1.6 million (or roughly 80%) were registered to vote last month, according to the latest data from the California secretary of state’s office.

That rate of voter registration is somewhat higher than the national average. Whites still make up a bigger share of registered voters than of the voting-age citizen population, according to the poll, and the voter share for Latinos is just a bit lower than their share of the eligible population. But in both cases, the gaps are just barely larger than the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

According to the poll, 49% of the registered voters surveyed identified themselves as white. Among the voting age citizen population, whites are 44%. Latinos were 26% of the poll sample and are 29% of the citizen population 18 or older. There was no gap for blacks, who make up 14% of the registered voter pool. There was a somewhat larger gap for people of Asian ancestry -- 5% in the poll and 11% among the voting-age citizen population.

Latinos overall are 43% of the city’s population 18 and older, but the gap between that figure and the Latino share of the voting population no longer reflects a lower level of voter registration, but rather is a function of citizenship. About 23% of the city’s Latino residents 18 or older are not citizens, making them ineligible to vote.

--David Lauter