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Student Pollsters Projected Winner of Mayoral Race


Prof. Fernando Guerra announcing the results of LMU's exit poll.Not everyone could have told you who was going to win the Los Angeles mayoral election just moments after the polls closed on Tuesday, May 21.

Not everyone—except those who were at the Election Night event hosted by the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles at LMU. That’s because the center’s exit poll predicted a win for Councilman Eric Garcetti, with 54 percent of the vote, over Controller Wendy Greuel, projected to win 46 percent of the vote.

Those numbers, it turned out, were exactly correct.

“We’ve been conducting exit polls in Los Angeles for years, and every time we improve our methods for collecting surveys and analyzing the results,” said Fernando Guerra, director of the center and professor of Chicana/o studies and political science at LMU. “On Election Night, we felt very good about our data, and the result speaks for itself.”

On Election Day, 75 student volunteers canvassed 25 precincts throughout the day and entered data as it came in from the field. Those surveys, combined with a telephone poll of voters who mailed in their ballots prior to Election Day, allowed center researchers to predict the outcome hours before official results began trickling in.

That projection, and the insights gathered from the exit poll’s demographic research, were extensively reported by the news media. The New York Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Reuters, KPCC 89.3 FM, and Fox11 News were among the many relying on the Center’s data and analysis in their coverage.

“The exit poll is a great opportunity for our students to get hands-on, behind-the-scenes experience in the political system,” said Brianne Gilbert, associate director of the center.

Beyond that experience, students also work with the data itself for their own research projects, such as tracking voting patterns or demographic changes throughout Los Angeles.

For more information, visit the Center for the Study of Los Angeles home page.