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Whitman Solidifies Lead Over Poizner, But Slips in General Election Matchup

Boxer May be Vulnerable in Senate Race

Contact: USC News at (213) 740-2215 or

LOS ANGELES — May 30, 2010 — Meg Whitman has reclaimed a significant lead in the Republican primary, but the cost of beating back a strong challenge from Steve Poizner may be a disadvantage in the general election, according to the latest results from the USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll.

As California nears election day on June 8, former Ebay CEO Whitman has solidified her lead against State Insurance Commissioner Poizner, leading by 29 points (53 percent for Whitman compared to 29 percent for Poizner). Twelve percent of registered Republican voters are still undecided.

In March, a USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll showed Whitman leading Poizner by more than 40 points among registered Republican voters in California.

Both Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner are polling behind presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, Jerry Brown, California Attorney General. Among all registered Californian voters surveyed in the USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll, Brown leads Meg Whitman (44 to 38) and Poizner (45 to 31).

“Whitman has had to reach out more aggressively to conservatives to fend off Poizner in the primary, but that's cost her support from moderate voters,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute for Politics at the University of Southern California. “If she does win the nomination, she's going to have to figure out a way to move back to the center very quickly.”

In particular, Brown has gained support among registered woman voters at the expense of Whitman. In a general election, Brown leads Whitman 49 to 40 among women in California, compared to 44 percent of women in support of Whitman and 38 percent in support of Brown two months ago.

In the general election, Brown also leads among voters registered as “decline-to-state,” with 48 percent of the vote compared to 38 percent of the vote for Whitman.

The USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll was compiled May 19 - 26 with a sampling of 1,506 registered voters in California and a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percent.


Carly Fiorina (38 percent) leads Tom Campbell (23 percent) and Chuck DeVore (16 percent) among registered Republican voters and decline-to-state voters planning to vote in the Republican primary.

Only 34 percent of all registered voters surveyed said they would re-elect U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, with 49 percent saying they would vote for someone else.

Former Congressman Campbell would present the strongest challenge for Boxer in the general election, according to the USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll. Campbell leads Boxer by seven points (45 percent for Campbell, 38 percent for Boxer) among all Californian registered voters surveyed.

Against likely Republican candidate Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Boxer leads with 44 percent of the vote compared to 38 percent for Fiorina. Against CA State Assemblyman DeVore, Boxer leads 46 to 36.

Campbell’s support is strongest among “independent” and moderate voters: A plurality of decline-to-state voters said they would vote for Campbell (46 percent) over Boxer (28 percent). Against Fiorina, Boxer leads among decline-to-state voters, 42 percent to 32 percent for Fiorina.

In addition, Campbell carries 46 percent of self-identified moderate voters against Boxer (33 percent). Boxer leads Fiorina among moderate voters (48 percent to 30 percent). Thirty-nine percent of the Californian registered voters surveyed self-identified as moderate, compared to 24 percent liberal and 31 percent conservative.

Despite falling from a 49 percent approval rating last November to 40 percent in the latest poll, Boxer may be bolstered by President Barack Obama, who has made two visits to California to support the incumbent in the last month. President Obama has a 59 percent favorability ranking among Californian registered voters, with 36 percent unfavorable.

“California voters have always been somewhat conflicted about Barbara Boxer, but they still love Barack Obama. If Boxer is re-elected, it's going to be because Obama carried her across the finish line. Obama may not have strong coattails ion other parts of the country, but in California, he could very well be the difference-maker in this race,” Schnur said.


For the first time in the history of polling by the Los Angeles Times, the percentage of Californians who believe the state is headed on the “right track” has fallen into the single digits. In the latest USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll, only seven percent of Californians are optimistic about the future of the state compared to 82 percent who said California is headed in the “wrong direction.”

Unhappiness is even higher among Republican registered voters in California: 91 percent said the state is headed in the “wrong direction,” compared to just 5 percent of California Republicans who believe the state is on the “right track”. Seventy-seven percent of Democratic voters (9 percent “right track”) and 82 percent of decline-to-state voters (8 percent “right track”) are pessimistic about the future of California.


A majority of Republican voters surveyed (54 percent) said they made their decision about which gubernatorial candidate to support in the Republican primary within the last month, and an even larger percentage (63 percent) said they made their decision about Republican Senate candidates in the last month.

Twenty-one percent of registered Republican voters in California said they decided within the last week whom to vote for in the Republican gubernatorial primary. An additional 17 percent said they made their decision about the Republican candidate for governor within the last two weeks.

As for the Senate primary, 28 percent of registered Republican voters said they decided in the last week whom to vote for, with another 19 percent deciding within the last two weeks.

Since the last USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll in March, the percentage of Californian voters who had seen an advertisement for Steve Poizner grew significantly, from 47 percent in March to 71 percent in the latest poll.

Eight in 10 Californian voters have seen an ad for Whitman, according to the latest poll.


•  Daily newspapers and news websites are the top source of information about California news and politics, with 34 percent of registered voters surveyed saying it was their primary source of information. Thirty percent said local TV news was their primary source of information. Three percent said social media such as Facebook, Twitter or MySpace was their primary source.
•  Additional Calif. public opinion findings about oil drilling, legalizing marijuana, open primary ballot initiative, and the Arizona immigration law to be released this week.

For Media: A phone conference discussing the results of the USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll is planned for TODAY, May 30 at 11 a.m. PST with political analysts from USC and the Los Angeles Times. Call-in numbers: United States:  (800) 553-0288; International: (612) 332-0345.

To RSVP for the call, contact Suzanne Wu at

TWITTER: @usclatpoll

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 will be taken at regular intervals and will be 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.

About USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences: USC College of Letters, Art & Sciences is the university’s primary center for research and education in the natural sciences, humanities and social sciences. The largest of USC’s 19 academic schools, USC College is composed of more than 30 academic departments and more than 20 Ph.D. programs, and is home to more than two dozen research centers and institutes.

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.

Contact USC Media Relations 24/7 at (213) 740-2215 or