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Sherman Holds Lead over Berman in 30th Congressional Race: Two Incumbents Likely Headed to November Runoff

Interactive online poll shows campaign advertisements influence choice of candidate; economy and jobs are high-priority issues among voters.

Media Contact:
Michelle Salzman at (213) 821-9311 or

LOS ANGELES — June 3 2012 — A USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences Online Survey has found that Congressman Brad Sherman holds a comfortable lead over fellow incumbent Howard Berman in the 30th Congressional District primary race.

When asked who they would vote for or who they have already voted for in the primary election for Congress, 32 percent of voters selected Sherman as their candidate and 24 percent chose Berman. Coming in a distant third was Republican candidate Mark Reed, who 10 percent of voters said they would select as their representative, followed by Navraj Singh (4.3 percent), Michael Powelson (3.5 percent), Susan Shelley (1.9 percent) and Vince Gilmore (1.5 percent). Twenty-three percent of voters said they were undecided.

"Redistricting reform may have thrown these two candidates into the same district, but the top two primary is going to ensure that they end up with a rematch in November," said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife Online Survey and director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. "Sherman may finish first on Tuesday, but Berman is well-positioned to make this a very close race all the way through if he can mobilize his base and reach out to Republican voters."

"This race is going down to wire — and despite Sherman's primary advantage, the numbers show they'll likely be facing off again in November," said Chris St. Hilaire, president of M4 Strategies.

Overwhelmingly, voters said that the economy and jobs are influential factors in their selection for Congress. When asked to select the top two issues that would influence their choice for representative, 190 votes were tallied for the economy /jobs; 86 for taxes; 85 for healthcare; 60 for education/schools; 57 for experience of candidate; and 54 for the deficit/spending.

Other issues queried included: immigration/illegal immigration (44 votes); Israel and the Middle East (31 votes); the environment (28 votes); same-sex marriage (26 votes); transportation/infrastructure (15 votes); abortion (12 votes); and candidate endorsements (1 vote).

Schnur pointed out that both candidates performed best among their current constituents, but that Sherman's current district represents a larger portion of the new district than Berman's. He also noted that Sherman supporters were more likely to prioritize taxes, infrastructure and immigration as the most important issues in their decision, while Berman voters ranked healthcare and the candidate's experience as their top concerns. Sherman's backers were heavily Latino and Catholic, while Berman ran much stronger among Jewish voters, especially Reform Jews.

"Both candidates run best on their home turf among voters who know them best," Schnur said. "They are going to spend the next several months fighting over voters who supported neither one of them in the primary and attempting to discourage their opponent's supporters from turning out."

"Ironically, the battle between these two Democratic stalwarts may be decided by Republican voters."


The online survey presented voters with the opportunity to view and respond to 30-second video campaign advertisements for Berman and Sherman — one of the advantages of web-based public opinion polling. In real time, respondents rated how persuasive each video was on a scale of 0 to100 by moving a slider up and down in increments of 10 based on whether they saw or heard something they thought was more or less persuasive in each ad.

Overall, voters rated Brad Sherman’s commercial as more persuasive than Berman’s with an average rating of 62. Forty-seven percent of voters gave Sherman’s advertisement between 75-100 points and 19 percent of voters gave it 51-74 points in terms of its persuasiveness.

Howard Berman’s commercial received an average persuasiveness rating of 53. Thirty percent of voters rated his advertisement between 51-74 points and 27 percent rated it between 75-100 points.

In fact, after watching the campaign advertisements voters were asked again who their choice for Congress would be. When compared to their preferences for representative of the 30th Congressional District prior to watching the campaign advertisements, support for Sherman increased by 8 points (shifting from 32 to 40 percent) and support for Berman increased by 6 points (shifting from 24 to 30 percent).

"Based on our analysis of voters reactions to the television ads, Congressman Sherman's ad tests better than the ad in support of Congressman Berman. This advantage in the ad wars is helping position Sherman for a first place finish in the primary and with a head start for the general election," said Ben Tulchin, founder and president of Tulchin Research.


   View the campaign advertisement video voters watched of Brad Sherman:

   View the campaign advertisement video voters watched of Howard Berman:

   Note: In each video, the blue line corresponds to the total average of viewers; red line corresponds to average of Democratic viewers; green line corresponds to average of Independent viewers; and yellow line corresponds to average of Republican viewers.


Support for Berman and Sherman across party lines also shifted after voters watched the video clips.

Prior to watching the campaign advertisements, Sherman had the support of 44 percent of Democrats, 16 percent of Republicans and 23 percent of Independent/Decline to State voters. After watching the ads, his support shifted to 52 percent of Democrats, 23 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of Independent/Decline to State voters.

For Berman, 31 percent of Democrats, 16 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of Independent/Decline to State voters supported him prior to viewing the commercials. After watching the clips, his support shifted to 33 percent of Democrats, 26 percent of Republicans and 28 percent of Independent/Decline to State voters.

The number of undecided voters shifted dramatically shrinking by 9 points from 23 to 14 percent.


President Obama continues to get high marks from California voters. When asked their impression of the president, voters responded with a favorability rating of 59-39, up from 57-39 when asked in an April 2012 USC Dornsife online survey. Gov. Brown also received a high favorability rating: 53 percent of voters have a favorable impression of him and 39 percent unfavorable.


By a large margin, voters said they would be behind Israel in eliminating a nuclear threat from Iran should credible evidence show that Iran had developed nuclear weapons.

Fifty-three percent of voters said they would support a bombing of Iran by Israel should Iran develop nuclear weapons. Thirty-four percent of voters said they would oppose such an attack.

Voters were also asked if they would support Israel giving up settlements on the West Bank in exchange for more security commitments from Palestinians. A majority of voters said yes: 46 percent said they would support giving up settlements on the West Bank and 38 percent said that they would oppose.

The USC Dornsife online survey, conducted on behalf of USC Dornsife by California polling firms M4 Strategies and Tulchin Research, interviewed 329 likely registered Primary Election voters in California from May 29 to 31, 2012. The full sample carries a margin of error of +/- 5.4 percent.

WEBSITE: /online-survey

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.