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February 6, 2001

Poll Finds Little Trust in Supes To Decide El Toro

Airport at Bottom of OC Voters' Priority List; Education, Crime at Top

IRVINE, CA - Voters in Orange County say education, crime and traffic should be the top priorities this year for local officials and put a new County airport at the bottom of the list, according to a new independent poll released on Tuesday.

The poll, of 540 registered voters in Orange County, finds 53% of voters saying improving local schools should be a "top priority". Forty-eight percent say "fighting crime" and 44% say "relieving highway congestion" should be "top priority" issues. Improving the quality of health care also received 44%.

In the face of the energy crisis, voters place programs for energy conservation fifth in importance, with voters in North County giving the issue the most prominence.

Just 12% of voters say building a new international airport in the County is a "top priority" concern, as the issue ranks last of all 13 issues tested in the survey. The next lowest issue, maintaining good relations with Mexico, was considered "top priority" by 21%.

Mixed Views Overall on Supervisors

The poll finds mixed views toward the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Overall, 42% of OC voters have a favorable view of the Supervisors, while 35% have an unfavorable view. Nearly 1 in 4 voters do not have an opinion.

Unfavorable views are particularly high in South County, where just 29% have a positive impression of the Supervisors overall. Forty-five percent have a negative impression.

The Supervisors are viewed more favorably by Republican and Latino voters than by Democrats, Independents and Whites.

The poll also finds high percentages of young voters saying they could not identify the Board of Supervisors. While 82% of all voters said they had heard of the Board, 42% of voters under the age of 35 say they had not.

Voters Do Not Trust Board to Decide Fate of El Toro

The poll asked voters about specific issues facing the Supervisors and whether they trust them to make decisions about these issues. Concerning the future of El Toro, 54% say they do not trust the Supervisors to decide this issue, with nearly 1 in 3 voters saying they do not trust Supervisors "at all." Male voters and voters in South County are particularly distrusting of the Supervisors on El Toro.
On other issues, the poll finds more trust. Two-thirds say they trust the Supervisors to handle oversight of the election process and ballot counting. On development issues and managing the county's finances, however, just 1 in 10 say they have "a lot" of trust in the Supervisor's decisions.

While trust is higher in North County - where the Supervisors are generally viewed more favorably -voters in South County are almost equally divided on the Supervisors' ability to make planning and financial decisions.

"The poll suggests voters - at least those who pay attention to local government - are of two minds," said Dr. Christian Collet, director of the poll. "On one hand, they trust the Supervisors to oversee ballot counts and, to a lesser degree, the county's finances and planning. On the other hand, voters strongly believe they cannot handle El Toro."

"The numbers indicate that the more focus that is put on the airport - which voters believe is less important than almost every other issue in Orange County - the more risk there is in alienating the public," Collet said. "If voters already believe there is a disconnection between their concerns and those of politicians, it may get worse as the Supervisors attempt to tackle this issue."

About The Pacific Poll and Pacific Opinions

The Pacific Poll, of a random sample of 540 registered voters in Orange County, was administered by telephone, in English and Spanish, between January 14th and 23rd, 2001. The margin of sampling error for the entire sample is approximately +/- 4.5 percentage points. It is important to recognize that sampling error is just one potential error in opinion surveys; results can be affected by other factors such as question wording, order and timing of the interviews.

Pacific Opinions is an independent research company based in Irvine that conducts polls and survey research for private-sector clients, media and non-profit organizations. Christian Collet, Ph.D., a political scientist at University of California, Irvine, is the senior partner in the company. Dr. Collet serves as the director of The Pacific Poll.

The Pacific Poll is a public-interest research project funded by Pacific Opinions. It is conducted regularly on social and political issues in the diverse communities of San Diego and Orange County.