LOS ANGELES, CA – In the race for California governor, Democrat Jerry Brown has expanded his lead over Republican Meg Whitman into double digits. With less than two weeks to go before the general election, Brown now leads Whitman by 13 points among likely voters, according to results from the USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll.
In a sample of more than 1,500 registered voters in California, including 922 likely voters, Brown has the support of the majority of likely voters, leading Whitman 52 to 39 with 3 percent planning to vote for another candidate. Four percent of likely voters remain undecided.
In the last USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll, conducted in September, Attorney General Brown led former eBay CEO Whitman by 5 points.
Among Latino voters, Brown led Whitman by 19 percentage points in September, 51 to 32. He now leads by 36 percentage points, 59 to 23. Among white voters, the margin between Brown and Whitman remains virtually unchanged.
“There are events beyond her control that Whitman didn’t manage well,” said Darry Sragow, interim director of the USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll and adjunct assistant professor of political science at USC. “Voters are making a judgment about Whitman’s character and how she handled a crisis.”
A majority of likely voters surveyed in the most recent USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll, 52 percent, said they thought Whitman did a poor job handling revelations about her housekeeper Nicandra Diaz, compared to 41 percent who thought she handled it well.
In September, 34 percent of Latino voters had an unfavorable view of Whitman. Whitman’s unfavorability rating has since grown 18 points — 52 percent of Latino voters have an unfavorable view of Whitman in the most recent poll. Overall, 52 percent of likely voters have an unfavorable view of Whitman and 37 percent have a favorable view.
At the same time, Brown’s favorability rating among Latino voters, who comprise 19 percent of registered voters in the state of California, has grown from 34 percent in September to 49 percent now viewing him favorably. Among likely voters, Brown’s favorability is 48 percent, with 44 percent viewing him unfavorably.
“Whitman’s declining favor with Latino voters might be the result of several recent moments, not only the incident involving her former housekeeper, but also her statements during the debate at Fresno State, broadcast in Spanish through Univision,” said Manuel Pastor, USC professor of American Studies and Ethnicity. “A Fresno State student who is in the country illegally asked both candidates about the Dream Act, legislation to allow undocumented youth to gain citizenship in return for attending college or entering the military. Whitman seemed to indicate that she thought the student was taking the place of a citizen, and that may not have played well with Latino voters who were listening to the debate.”
Brown’s advantage over Whitman among voters registered “Decline to State” has also increased substantially, from a 6 point lead in September, 47 to 41, to a 37 point lead in the latest USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll, 61 to 24.
“Two of the key groups in the California electorate are Latino voters and those who decline to state a party affiliation. Meg Whitman knew she had to persuade these voters to support her, but the most recent data demonstrate that she has been less successful than she had hoped in winning Latino and DTS voters,” said Jane Junn, research director of the USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll and USC professor of political science.
Among those who have already voted, 43 percent of voters said they voted for Brown and 38 percent voted for Whitman.
Boxer faces tough challenge from Fiorina
In a reflection of national anti-incumbent sentiment, Republican candidate Carly Fiorina continues to mount a tough challenge against three-term incumbent U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, who leads Fiorina 50 to 42 among likely voters. Among those who have already voted, Boxer leads Fiorina by 3 points, 40 to 37.
“Any Republican running in California is facing an uphill battle. It’s hard for Republicans to win in California state-wide races, and it’s even more difficult for conservative Republicans in a state where nearly half of voters are registered as Democrats,” Junn said. “Given the party registration numbers and her relatively conservative position on the issues, one would expect Fiorina to be having a tougher time than Whitman.”
Ninety-five percent of likely voters were able to identify Boxer. In contrast, only 83 percent of likely voters were able to identify Fiorina, including just 62 percent of Latino voters.
During the primary elections, Boxer led Fiorina in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup 44 to 38, according to the USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll conducted in May, but the same poll showed Boxer trailing a generic Republican opponent. In May, 34 percent of registered voters said they would vote for Boxer, with 49 percent saying they would vote for someone else.
Both Boxer and Fiorina suffer from negative favorability ratings among likely voters. Forty-four percent of likely voters in California have a favorable view of Boxer, and 36 percent have a favorable view of Fiorina. But Boxer’s unfavorability numbers are also higher than Fiorina’s: 50 percent and 43 percent, respectively, among likely voters.
In contrast, President Barack Obama continues to enjoy high favorability among California voters, with 56 percent of likely voters viewing him favorably and 42 percent unfavorably.
Boxer leads Fiorina among likely women voters 53 to 36, and Fiorina leads Boxer among likely male voters 48 to 46.
Enhusiasm narrowing in California
Democratic voters are closing the enthusiasm gap in California. A similar percentage of likely Republican voters and likely Democratic voters rated their enthusiasm for the November election as high as possible on a scale of 1 to 10.
But voters registered “Decline to State” are much less likely to be extremely enthusiastic. Just one in four likely decline-to-state voters rated their enthusiasm a “10” compared to 48 percent of likely Republican and 45 percent of likely Democratic voters.
Eighty-four percent of Democratic voters rated their enthusiasm “5” and above, compared to 85 percent of Republican voters and 82 percent of decline-to-state voters.
This narrowing enthusiasm gap in California reflects a decrease in Republican voter enthusiasm and an increase in Democratic voter enthusiasm over the last month. In the September USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll, 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.