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Jerry Brown Has Slight Edge Over Meg Whitman, Buoyed by Support Among Latino Voters

USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll Finds Barbara Boxer Supported by Majority of Likely Voters in Senate Race


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Governor's Race: September 2010 Poll Results

Video by Mira Zimet

Jerry Brown has a double-digit advantage over Meg Whitman among likely Latino voters, contributing to a slight overall lead in California's closely contested race for governor, according to the latest results from the USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll.

As California nears election day and the start of mail-in voting, Attorney General Brown leads former eBay CEO Whitman by 5 points among all likely voters surveyed. About 49 percent of likely voters said they would vote for him if the election were held today — compared to 44 percent of likely voters supporting Whitman. Five percent of likely voters are still undecided.

Voters registered as “decline to state” seem to be leaning toward Democratic candidates in the top California races, according to the USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll. Forty-seven percent of decline-to-state voters in California said they plan to vote for Brown, and 41 percent support Whitman.

Among likely Latino voters, Brown’s lead is larger. More than half of Latino voters surveyed (55 percent) said they will vote for Brown, with 35 percent supporting Whitman and 10 percent undecided. Latino voters comprise 19 percent of California registered voters.

“While these results show both Brown and Boxer slightly ahead, the governor’s race and the Senate race are still very competitive. Voters give credit to Whitman when it comes to having new ideas, but they are divided on whether they want a governor with business experience or government experience, and they overwhelmingly prefer a governor who will be collaborative rather than confrontational,” said Darry Sragow, interim director of the USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll.

Despite spending more than $119 million on her campaign, Whitman seems to have difficulty connecting with voters. Overall, likely voters polled said they thought Whitman would do a better job than Brown on the economy (46 to 36 percent), more likely voters thought Whitman has “new ideas to help California” (48 to 32 percent), and more voters thought Whitman could be decisive (44 percent to 37 percent).

However, Whitman polled 12 points behind Brown on whether she “understands the problems and concerns of people like me,” with just 36 percent of likely voters saying the statement applies to Whitman compared to 48 percent for Brown.

Additionally, while both Brown and Whitman are viewed unfavorably by a significant proportion of those surveyed, Brown’s favorable and unfavorable ratings are evenly matched (45 percent each). In contrast, the spread between Whitman’s favorable and unfavorable rating is in double digits to her disadvantage, with 47 percent unfavorable and just 37 percent favorable.

Neither candidate has an advantage on how likely voters think they would handle immigration or taxes, but likely voters believe Brown would do a better job on education, by a margin of 47 to 33 percent.

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David Lauter, assistant managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, discusses the results of the September 2010 Senator's Race poll.
  Video by Mira Zimet  

Boxer Supported by Majority of Likely Voters

In the race for U.S Senate, Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer is supported by a majority of likely voters for the first time in the USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll. Among likely voters, 51 percent say that they will vote for her, compared to 43 percent for former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

“It’s clear we have two really different races. In the governor’s race, Whitman has portrayed herself as a moderate, while the Senate race remains ideologically charged,” said Jane Junn, professor of political science in USC College and research director of the USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll. “Any Republican candidate running in California has to overcome higher party registration numbers for Democrats, and Meg Whitman seems to have done a better job moving toward the center than Carly Fiorina.”

A majority of women voters support Boxer, with 53 percent of likely women voters backing Boxer compared to 39 percent for Fiorina. Support for the Senate candidates is about equal among men, with 48 percent supporting Boxer and 47 percent supporting Fiorina.

Among likely white voters, Boxer and Fiorina are running even, with about 47 and 48 percent support, respectively. But among likely Latino voters, Boxer leads Fiorina by a wide margin — 65 to 25 percent.

Support among decline-to-state voters also contributes to Boxer’s lead over Fiorina. Boxer leads Fiorina 56 to 34 among these likely voters, according to the USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll.

Boxer also may be buoyed by ongoing support in California for President Barack Obama. A majority of likely California voters (56 percent) surveyed say they “want a senator who will mostly support President Obama’s policies,” with 47 percent saying they feel this “strongly.”

“The support we are seeing in this poll for the president seems to be a pronounced difference from other parts of the country,” Sragow said. “The numbers in this poll suggest that the Fiorina campaign still has a way to go. In fact, while around 90 percent of likely voters say they are familiar with Jerry Brown, Meg Whitman and Barbara Boxer, only 70 percent say the same about Carly Fiorina.”

Overall, 56 percent of registered voters in California say they either strongly approve or somewhat approve of the job being done by President Obama.

Independent Voters Unenthusiastic About Election

Republican voters in California were more enthusiastic about the November election than Democratic voters and decline-to-state voters. On a scale of 1 to 10, a majority of Republican likely voters (55 percent) rated their enthusiasm for the November election as high as possible — a “10” — compared to 35 percent of likely Democratic voters and 37 percent of decline-to-state voters.

While more than 87 percent of white registered voters said they were “almost certain” they would vote (8 percent “probably” and 3 percent “50-50”), only 68 percent of registered Latino voters said they were “almost certain” they would vote in the California governor’s and Senate races (9 percent “probably” and 12 percent “50-50”).

For a video analysis of these findings, visit

The USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll surveyed 1,511 registered voters in the state of California, a sample that includes 887 likely voters. The poll was conducted September 15-22, 2010 by the Democratic firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the Republican firm American Viewpoint. It has a margin of error +/- 2.5 for registered voters and +/- 3.3 for likely voters.

The September 2010 USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll also includes a substantial oversample of 400 registered Latino voters. Importantly, all interviews in the Latino oversample, which were conducted on behalf of the USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll by the polling firm Latino Decisions, were conducted by bilingual Latino interviewers, resulting in much higher response and cooperation rates than for other polls because of the availability of immediate Spanish or English interviews. The margin of error for the Latino oversample is +/- 4.9.

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Jane Junn, USC College professor of political science and research director of the USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll, discusses the September 2010 poll methodology.
  Video by Mira Zimet  

About the USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll:
The USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll project is a series of six statewide public opinion polls that began November 8, 2009, and will continue throughout California’s crucial 2010 elections for governor and U.S. Senate.

These polls are taken at regular intervals and are designed to survey California residents’ attitudes on a wide range of political, policy, social and cultural issues to better inform the public and to encourage discourse on key political and policy issues.


Read more: Latino Voters Give Democratic Candidates Their Edge