PPIC survey shows Whitman and Brown deadlocked

September 29, 2010 9:00pm
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•  Boxer holds narrow lead

•  Voters divided on suspending AB 32

A month before the election, the races for California governor and U.S. senator are close and many likely voters are still undecided, according to a survey released Wednesday evening by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

In the governor's race, Democrat Jerry Brown (37 percent) and Republican Meg Whitman (38 percent) are locked in a virtual tie among likely voters with 18 percent undecided.

In the U.S. Senate race, incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer (42 percent) leads Republican Carly Fiorina (35 percent) by 7 points, with 17 percent undecided.

A sluggish national economy, double-digit unemployment, and a record-long state budget crisis are very much on the minds of Californians as the election approaches.

Unconvinced by reports that the recession ended last year, nearly all residents (89 percent) say the state is in a recession.

Asked to name the most important issue facing people in California, 62 percent say jobs and the economy -- nearly matching the record-high 63 percent who gave this answer in February 2009.

More than four in 10 residents say they are very concerned or somewhat concerned that they or someone in their family could lose a job in the next year.

Californians' views of state and federal elected officials are reflected in approval ratings that are at or near record lows. And a significant number of likely voters are unhappy with the choice of candidates in the governor's race as well. Only 45 percent are satisfied.

Of four ballot propositions included in the PPIC survey, just one exceeded the 50 percent threshold of support needed for passage, and it barely did so: Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana and allow it to be regulated and taxed in California (52 percent would vote yes, 41 percent no, 7 percent undecided).

"Neither the candidates nor the ballot measures have captured the imagination of the California electorate," says Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. "There's consensus about the problems, and voters are looking for a game-changer. They don't see one on this ballot."

Here’s the PPIC survey by topics:

More independents favor Whitman

The survey -- completed just before a series of televised debates between the candidates -- reveals a governor's race that remains close among likely voters, as it was in July (34 percent Ms. Whitman, 37 percent Mr. Brown, 23 percent undecided).

Independents were divided in July (30 percent Mr. Brown, 28 percent Ms. Whitman, 30 percent undecided) but have shifted toward Ms. Whitman (38 percent Ms. Whitman, 30 percent Mr. Brown, 19 percent undecided).

Ms. Whitman is favored more by Republicans (71 percent) than Mr. Brown is by Democrats (63 percent).

Is experience in business or politics more important? Voters divided

The elections for governor and U.S. Senate offer Californians a choice between seasoned politicians and former heads of large corporations. What is more important: experience in government or experience running a business?

Likely voters are evenly divided (44 percent experience in elected office, 43 percent experience running a business).

Partisan affiliations are key: 63 percent of Democrats value experience in elected office more and 68 percent of Republicans value experience running a business more. Independents are more likely to favor experience in office (46 percent) to experience in business (39 percent).

In an election year in which campaign financing has emerged as a prominent issue, the PPIC survey asked whether voters view more positively candidates who use mostly their own money for campaigning or those who use mostly money collected from supporters.

A majority (56 percent) have a more positive view of candidates who use money mainly from supporters. Most Democrats (63 percent) and independents (56 percent) hold this view, as do a plurality of Republicans (44 percent).

Boxer leads while her approval rating drops

In contrast to the governor's race, 64 percent of likely voters say they are satisfied with their choices in the U.S. Senate race. The Senate contest was closer in July (39 percent Ms. Boxer, 34 percent Ms. Fiorina, 22 percent undecided) than in the current survey, completed just before the second debate between the candidates.

Independent likely voters are divided in their support (34 percent Ms. Fiorina, 32 percent Ms. Boxer, 20 percent undecided), while they favored Ms. Boxer slightly in July (35 percent Ms. Boxer, 29 percent Ms. Fiorina, 25 percent undecided).

Ms. Boxer has the support of more Latinos (49 percent Ms. Boxer, 19 percent Ms. Fiorina) and women (45 percent Ms. Boxer, 31 percent Ms. Fiorina), while men (39 percent Ms. Boxer, 40 percent Ms. Fiorina) and whites (38 percent Ms. Boxer, 41 percent Ms. Fiorina) are split.

At the same time, incumbent Senator Boxer's approval rating among all adults is 41 percent, matching her record low in March 2008. Across parties, her approval rating has dropped since May among Democrats (67 percent today, down 10 points), independents (41 percent, down 12 points), and Republicans (7 percent, down 6 points). Disapproval of her job performance is at a new high of 45 percent.

Approval of Feinstein, Obama, Congress decline

Sen. Dianne Feinstein's approval rating among Californians has also tied her record low of 44 percent, first reached in March 2008. Her disapproval rating is at a record-high 39 percent.

With midterm elections approaching, approval ratings for the president and Congress have dropped as well. President Barack Obama's approval rating in the state is at a record-low 52 percent, although Californians feel more favorably toward him than do Americans nationwide (42 percent approve in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll).

Californians feel much more negative about Congress: 26 percent approve, similar to Americans nationwide (21 percent approve in a CBS News/New York Times poll).

Although Californians are more likely to approve (43 percent) than disapprove (39 percent) of their own congressional representative, this approval rating has hit a new low.

About a third of state residents (32 percent) say the president's economic policies have made economic conditions better, a similar proportion (28 percent) say his policies have made conditions worse, and 38 percent say there's been no effect or it's too soon to tell.

About two-thirds (64 percent) and solid majorities across parties say Congress and the Obama administration are not doing enough to create jobs.

Half favor marijuana measure—props. 23, 24, 25 fall short of majority

Among California's likely voters, 52 percent favor the proposition to legalize marijuana. Strong majorities of independent (65 percent), Democratic (63 percent), and Latino (63 percent) likely voters support Proposition 19 when read the full ballot title and label, as do those age 18-34 (70 percent).

Half of voters (49 percent) say the outcome of Proposition 19 is very important, with those opposed to the initiative feeling stronger about the outcome: 65 percent of those who plan to vote no say the outcome is very important, compared to 42 percent of likely voters who plan to vote yes.

Likely voters are divided on Proposition 23 (43 percent yes, 42 percent no, 15 percent don't know), which would suspend California's air pollution control law (AB 32) until unemployment falls to at least 5.5 percent for a full year.

The divide is reflected across parties, regions, and demographic groups. Half of Democrats (48 percent) would vote no, a plurality of Republicans (45 percent) would vote yes, and independents are split (43 percent no, 42 percent yes).

Proponents of this measure -- as well as the other propositions in the PPIC survey -- have linked the outcome to economic recovery. Proposition 23's advocates contend that AB 32 will cost the state large numbers of jobs in tough economic times, while opponents say the law encourages growth of green jobs.

Asked what impact state actions to reduce global warming will have on jobs, a plurality (41 percent) of likely voters in the PPIC survey say the result will be more jobs, 24 percent say the number of jobs will not be affected, and 26 percent see fewer jobs as the result.

An overwhelming majority (81 percent) of likely voters say the outcome of Proposition 23 is very important (45 percent) or somewhat important (36 percent) to them, with 53 percent of those who plan to vote yes and 45 percent of those who plan to vote no viewing the outcome as very important.

Three in 10 (30 percent) likely voters are undecided about Proposition 24 (35 percent yes, 35 percent no), which would repeal recent legislation that allows businesses to lower their tax liability.

Proposition 24 has neither majority support nor opposition in any political, regional, or demographic group except among likely voters age 18–34 (57 percent yes). The results of another survey question indicate that most likely voters are not in the mood to raise corporate taxes to ease the state's budget problems: 50 percent oppose raising the state taxes paid by corporations while 42 percent are in favor.

Almost half (48 percent) of likely voters would vote yes on Proposition 25, while 35 percent would vote no and 17 percent are undecided. The ballot measure would lower the two-thirds vote necessary to pass a budget in the legislature to a simple majority. But it would retain the two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes. The measure would also require that legislators forfeit their pay and expense reimbursements when the budget is late.

Democrats (52 percent) and independents (53 percent) are much more likely than Republicans (42 percent) to favor Proposition 25. Half of likely voters say the vote on Proposition 25 is very important, with supporters and opponents equally likely to hold this view

More key findings

• Governor Schwarzenegger's 28 percent approval rating is up somewhat from his record-low 23 percent. The legislature's 16 percent approval is near its record low of 14 percent. Just 31 percent of residents and 30 percent of likely voters approve of the jobs their own legislative representatives are doing. And 80 percent of Californians view the state budget situation as a big problem.

• Most Californians (66 percent) say illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in the U.S. for at least two years should be given a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status, while 30 percent say these immigrants should be deported to their native countries. Over half of Californians (54 percent) say immigrants are a benefit to the state and 39 percent say immigrants are a burden.

Half of Californians (52 percent) and likely voters (53 percent) favor allowing same-sex couples to marry, the highest percentage since PPIC began tracking the issue in 2000. But they are divided (46 percent agree, 48 percent disagree) over a federal judge's ruling that Proposition 8 -- which banned gay marriage – is unconstitutional.


This is supported with funding from The James Irvine Foundation. Findings are based on a telephone survey of 2,004 California adult residents interviewed on landlines and cell phones from Sept. 19-26. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish according to respondents' preferences. The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3 percent for all adults, ±3.3 percent for the 1,563 registered voters, and ±3.6 percent for the 1,104 likely voters.

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Comments on this story

Frank Zappa 9/30/10 12:33 AM
It is amazing that Prop 19 is winning, common sense has truly prevailed over the resolute opposition of spineless politicians and the selfish interests of law enforcement and alcohol distributors.

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