Purple predictions


Among the findings in the latest UCI-OC Poll are Orange County residents’ views of Disney.

Latest UCI-OC Poll finds Orange County could forecast upcoming elections

Orange County has become a prism for understanding the relationship between the left and right in American political and cultural life. It is one of America’s few “purple” counties, where 51% of voters supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, and while Joe Biden won the county in 2020, Republican Brian Dahle beat incumbent Governor Gavin Newsom among OC voters in 2022. 

The latest UCI-OC Poll, “Red County, Blue County, Orange County,” suggests that the OC is the county to watch in predicting the upcoming election.

Of the six congressional districts in Orange County, four are held by Democrats, a percentage that has see-sawed since 2012, when Republicans held four of the seven districts that overlapped the county. Nationwide, as political differences have gotten sharper and  gerrymandering more common, 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, notes Jon Gould, dean of UC Irvine’s School of Social Ecology who helped launch the poll. “Depending on the definition, fewer than 1% of American counties qualify as purple. Among the 25 most populous counties in the country, just three are purple: Maricopa (Phoenix), Arizona; Tarrant (Ft. Worth), Texas; and Orange County, California. The OC is perhaps the most well-known.”

Among the poll’s findings:

  • Orange County residents are divided between Democrats (36%), Republicans (28%), and Independents (36%). However, many of the self-described Independents consistently prefer one party. When Independents are pushed to identify, the Democratic advantage grows slightly.
  • Voter registration rates are highest among the most partisan, although Republicans are more likely to be registered than Democrats.
  • Republicans skew older, and Democrats skew younger in Orange County. However, Independents also skew younger. 
  • Republicans have a significant young adult problem in Orange County.
  • No one is optimistic about America’s future, but Democrats and modestly partisan Republicans feel better about California and Orange County.
  • In a significant shift, modestly partisan Republicans in Orange County have become a political anomaly. Their demographics are different than strongly partisan Republicans and their values and preferences are different from Republicans as a whole. Some, in fact, mirror Democrats’ views. Like all groups except strong Republicans, a majority of them is non-White.
  • Modestly partisan Republicans are the wealthiest political demographic in Orange County.
  • Modestly partisan Republicans are the least likely to have worried about covering rent or facing eviction in the last two years. And, they are less likely to have considered moving from Orange County.
  • Modestly partisan Republicans do not share the same cultural agenda as strong Republicans. On their view of Walt Disney Co., more than 40% of modestly partisan Republicans held somewhat favorable feelings toward the brand. Less than 20% of strong Republicans held somewhat favorable views of Disney.
  • Like Democrats, modestly partisan Republicans do not oppose taxpayer-funded bonds, even on progressive issues, such as a bond to address homelessness or to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Modestly partisan Republicans do not like Trump (26%) or dislike Biden (-66%) as much as do other Republicans. 
  • Independents dislike Trump (-57%) more than they dislike Biden (-42%). 

The Bottomline: Orange County is poised to swing left in the next presidential election on account of Independents and modestly partisan Republicans, according to the poll.

In an interview in today’s Los Angeles Times, Gould says: “The fight is over the independents who could go either way and the voters who are not strongly attached to a party who may simply choose not to vote. Orange County should be the place that political eyes are glued to for the future of the next Congress.”

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

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

Mimi Ko Cruz