Dissatisfied Democrats showed their displeasure with Gov. Gray Davis on Tuesday, with about a quarter each breaking ranks to vote for the recall and for a Republican candidate to replace him, according to a Times exit poll.
Despite the governor's efforts to rally Democrats to his side, a quarter of liberals and at least 3 in 10 moderate Democrats voted "yes" on the recall, according to the survey of voters. Members of traditional Democratic constituencies — such as union members and Latinos — voted against the recall, but not in overwhelming numbers.
The widespread defection came as nearly 3 in 4 voters said California was on the wrong track.
Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger had a strong showing across the political spectrum, picking up nearly a fifth of Democratic voters, more than 4 in 10 independents and 69% of conservative voters.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante collected just under two-thirds of liberal voters, but won fewer than 3 in 10 independents and a small fraction of Republicans. He also garnered slightly less than 60% of the Latino vote — a smaller share than his campaign had hoped to win.
The exit poll, supervised by Times Poll Director Susan Pinkus, was based on interviews with 5,205 voters from 74 precincts around the state. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.
People who made up their minds about the election in the last few days — when the campaign was dominated by allegations of sexual impropriety by Schwarzenegger — voted mainly for the recall.
Though men voted for the recall by a decisive margin, women were evenly divided. However, a racial and ethnic split emerged among women voters: Nearly four-fifths of African American women and a majority of Latinas were against the recall, but a majority of white women voted for it.
Davis found his strongest support among African American and Jewish voters.
Tuesday's electorate was remarkably similar to the one that narrowly reelected Davis to office last November: largely white and male, with smaller numbers of Latino, black and Asian voters.
That demographic breakdown favored Schwarzenegger. More than 8 in 10 of his voters were white, and more than half were men.
Schwarzenegger, who attempted to rally support among Californians who have not participated in the political process, appeared to gain the most from first-time voters. Nearly half of them supported him, and nearly 3 out of 5 voted for the recall.
Among all voters surveyed, a majority in every age group voted for Davis' recall.
Schwarzenegger sought to win the votes of his youthful moviegoing audience, but 18- to 29-year-olds were the least supportive of him, making up only 11% of his backers. Unlike voters in other age brackets, who backed Schwarzenegger over Bustamante by strong margins, young people favored him more narrowly.
Those who did vote for Schwarzenegger were staunchly committed to him. Almost 60% of them said their preference for their candidate was very strong, compared with 50% of those who voted for state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) and 34% of Bustamante voters.
Bustamante had the most diverse pool of supporters among the top candidates to replace Davis. One in 10 of his voters were black, 20% Latino and 5% Asian. Schwarzenegger and McClintock, on the other hand, had predominantly white supporters.
Though the lieutenant governor focused much of his campaign on Latinos, about 3 in 10 Latino voters threw their support to Schwarzenegger.
Bustamante's efforts to woo blue-collar support did not appear to pay off either. He beat Schwarzenegger by just nine points among union members, while voters who earn less than $40,000 a year were split evenly between the two.
And Bustamante's standing as the only prominent Democrat on the ballot did not deliver him unified Democratic support: Fewer than 2 in 3 backed the lieutenant governor.
Meanwhile, McClintock, who made a strong appeal to the right wing of the GOP, won support from only about a fifth of conservative Republican voters.
Some Democrats crossed party lines to support the state senator, making up nearly a quarter of his voters — the majority of them Democratic women.
Both Democrats and Republicans who voted for the recall cited as their top reason their perception that Davis had mismanaged the state. They also criticized the way he handled the state's energy crisis and financial problems.
Recall opponents said their main reason for voting against it was their belief that the governor was elected fairly, followed by a perception that Republicans wanted to gain power and push a conservative agenda.
The exit poll results highlighted a persistent political split in California. Orange County overwhelmingly backed the recall, the measure received divided support in Los Angeles County and went down to a strong defeat in the Bay Area, the only region where a majority voted to keep Davis in office.