Latest poll finds OC residents keep friendships despite politics


“Purple” county offers model for consensus

Even in a divisive time, most Orange County residents don’t break up friendships over political differences, according to the latest UCI-OC Poll.

The survey, sponsored by UC Irvine’s School of Social Ecology, asked respondents if they’ve ever ended a friendship over a political disagreement and 79% did not. In fact, the majority have close friends from across the aisle. And, only one-third report that most of their close friends share similar political views. 

In addition, those under 40 are the most likely to have friends of varied political alliances. 

The findings show that “Orange County offers an example and lessons for what happens when opposing sides occupy the same geographic space and share a common county government,” says Jon Gould, dean of School of Social Ecology. “If basic public services are to be performed, some consensus must be reached. Think of Orange County, then, as an incubator for an America that must find ways to engage across sides.”

That’s why Orange County, a truly “purple county,” is an important place to study, the dean emphasizes. The county is almost evenly split among Republicans (32%), Democrats (33%), and independents (35%). Most white residents favor Republicans (38%), whereas Latino residents support Democrats (40%) and Asian American residents identify as independent (39%). 

“Nationwide, as political differences have gotten sharper, it is increasingly rare to find a purple county, one in which congressional and presidential contests are truly competitive and Democrats and Republicans live in and among each other,“ Gould explains. 

Other findings in the poll include:

  • If the election were held today, Joe Biden would beat Donald Trump in Orange County by 8 points. 
  • Trump leads Biden by one point among county residents, but the ratio flips to an 8-point Biden lead among registered voters.
  • Men are evenly split between Biden and Trump, but women give Biden a 14-point advantage. 
  • White voters prefer Biden by 5 points, whereas Asian American voters (17 points) and Latino voters (13 points) significantly support Biden over Trump.
  • Younger voters (those under 40) are the least likely to support Trump. 
  • Trump wins white non-college educated voters by 8 percent. He splits non-white non-college educated voters with Biden. However, Biden enjoys nearly a 25-point advantage among any college-educated voters. 
  • Biden's approval rating is low — 38% — for a sitting president running for reelection. One-fifth of Democrats disapprove of his presidency. Yet, he is winning in Orange County for two reasons: his approval rating is 10 points higher (48%) among the likeliest voters; and even those who somewhat disapprove of his presidency (13% of likely voters), choose him by a 7-point margin over Trump. 
  • Almost one-quarter of Orange County voters have a negative perception of Biden and Trump. However, they choose Biden by nearly 30 points over Trump.
  • When asked to assign traits to the two candidates, 51% say Biden is "too old to be president" (compared to 26% for Trump), whereas 43% say Trump "has behaved corruptly" (compared to 31% for Biden).
  • Adam Schiff has a 6-point lead among the likeliest voters in Orange County. 
  • Demographic trends in the presidential race are matched in the Senate race. There is a substantial gender gap, although women are more than twice as likely as men to be undecided for the Senate. The racial-education gap is significant. In fact, Schiff is currently losing non-white, non-college educated voters, although 19% of this group are undecided.
  • Orange County voters say they prefer a Democratic congressional candidate over a Republican by 6 points. 
  • Women and Latino voters and non­-white, college-educated voters are most supportive of Democratic congressional candidates. 
  • Substantial majorities of OC residents identify the economy as very important in affecting their vote. The only substantial distinction is between Democrats' (70%) and Republicans' (88%) and undecided voters' (87%) prioritization of the issue. 
  • Other top issues include abortion, which rates as very important for Democrats (65%), women (59%), Latinos (58%), and those under 40 (53%). Only 31% of Republicans cite abortion as very important. 
  • The situation at the border is named very important by 55% of OC residents, especially so for Republicans (84%), those over 54 (66-68%), and white people (65%). Only 36% of Democrats cite the border as very important.
  • U.S. foreign policy is named as very important by 48% of Orange County residents.This is especially so for Republicans (65%), men (55%), white people with a college education (56%), and those over 54 (59-61%). Forty-five percent of Democrats say foreign affairs are very important.
  • Only 1% of Democrats believe Biden's win in 2020 was illegitimate, compared with 23% of independents who say Biden won dishonestly. By contrast, a little more than one-quarter of Republicans believe Biden's prior victory was legitimate.

With more than six months to go in the election, the UCI-OC Poll will be following developments. The School of Social Ecology launched the UCI-OC Poll in August and the first survey focused on Orange County’s views on homelessness and affordable housing. The second, released in January, focused on the upcoming election.

For more information about the poll, visit the UCI-OC Poll website.
Mimi Ko Cruz