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Californians Far Less Pessimistic About the Country’s Future than a Year Ago

President Barack Obama and Sen. Dianne Feinstein both maintain strong double-digit leads

Contact: Suzanne Wu at or (213) 740-0252; Merrill Balassone at or (213) 740-6156

October 27, 2012 — While Californians are still largely skeptical about the direction the United States is headed, their optimism about the country's future is at its highest point in recent years, according to the results of the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll.

With the election just weeks away, the largest survey of registered voters in the state still shows a majority of Californians, 51 percent, think the country is “seriously off on the wrong track” compared to 39 percent who said things are headed in the right direction.

When this question was last asked in August 2011, 73 percent said they believed the country was on the wrong track as compared to 16 percent who said the country was headed in the right direction.

"As California begins to see the first signs of economic recovery, the state's voters are slightly more upbeat about the future than they were at the depths of the recession," said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. "But it's been a difficult stretch over the last few years for California and its people, so it's going to be awhile before we start seeing real levels of optimism again."

Obama Maintains Double-Digit Lead over Romney

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll also showed President Barack Obama continues to hold a commanding lead over Republican nominee Mitt Romney, a lead which has held relatively steady over the past year. But support for Obama has not yet reached the level the president achieved in 2008, according to the results of the poll.

Statewide, 55 percent of voters support the Obama/Biden ticket compared to 39 percent who back Romney/Ryan.

The gap has tightened slightly, by three percentage points since May, when 56 percent of voters said they support Obama compared to 37 percent for Romney.

In the 2008 presidential election, Obama captured nearly 61 percent of California voters.

Obama has earned support from women and Latino voters at roughly the same levels as  he did during the 2008 presidential race, according to the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll. The poll showed 73 percent of Latinos and 61 percent of women support Obama, compared to 19 percent of Latinos and 34 percent of women who back Romney.

Romney leads Obama among white voters in California (49 to 46), and Obama holds a slim lead over Romney among male voters (48 to 44). Black voters overwhelmingly support Obama over Romney (93 to 4).

Eighty-four percent of registered Democrats favor Obama compared to 10 percent who are in favor of Romney. Among registered Republicans, 81 percent support Romney versus 14 percent for Obama. Decline to state voters favored Obama to Romney, 58 percent to 34 percent respectively.

The gap between support for Obama among younger voters and older voters remains large: 63 percent of voters aged 18 to 49 support Obama, compared to 32 percent in that age group who favor Romney. Among voters aged 50 and over, 48 percent favor Obama and 45 percent favor Romney.

Feinstein Looks Poised For Re-election; Californians Split on Government's Role

Californians are also largely supporting Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein for re-election, with 55 percent of voters in favor of re-electing Feinstein as compared to 38 percent choosing Republican challenger Elizabeth Emken.

Despite the state’s Democratic leanings, Californians were equally split when asked whether they believed government can play an important role in the economy or whether they thought government has gotten too big and is preventing economic growth, with 47 percent of voters agreeing with each statement.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll was conducted from Oct. 15-21, 2012, by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Republican polling firm American Viewpoint. The full sample of 1,504 registered voters has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

Additional poll results and methodology are available here.

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About the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll: The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is a series of statewide public opinion polls in California, designed to survey voter attitudes on a wide range of political, policy, social and cultural issues.

Conducted at regular intervals throughout the year, the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is one of the largest polls of registered voters in the state and has been widely cited, helping to inform the public and to encourage discourse on key political and policy issues.

About USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences: USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences is the heart of the university. The largest, oldest and most diverse of USC's 19 schools, USC Dornsife is composed of more than 30 academic departments and dozens of research centers and institutes. USC Dornsife is home to approximately 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 750 faculty members with expertise across the humanities, social sciences and sciences.

About the Los Angeles Times: The Los Angeles Times is the largest metropolitan daily newspaper in the country, with a daily readership of 2 million and 3 million on Sunday, and a combined print and interactive local weekly audience of 4.5 million. The fast-growing draws over 10 million unique visitors monthly.