By Phil Trounstine and Jerry Roberts
Propelled by his standing among Democrats, Latinos, women, liberals and especially moderates, Jerry Brown is leading Meg Whitman 44-36% in the latest survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, which also finds Barbara Boxer leading Carly Fiorina 43-38%.
Despite her massive spending - which is expected to reach $180 million - Republican Whitman has been unable to break away from Democrat Brown except among Republicans, conservatives and Southern Californians outside of Los Angeles.
Among independents - a group Team Whitman has identified as crucial to their final game plan - the race is essentially tied, with Whitman up only 37-36%, according to PPIC. Men, whites and voters in the Central Valley - demographics essential to a Republican candidate - also are evenly divided, while Brown is crushing Whitman in Los Angeles (54-28%) and the San Francisco Bay Area (55-29%).
Brown's strong lead appears in some considerable part to be due to his appeal to middle-of-the-road voters - moderates - as distinct from independents, according to a crosstab PPIC created at the request of Calbuzz. Brown, of course, leads among liberals 82-4% and Whitman commands conservatives 63-15%. But among the large swath of voters in the middle - however they are registered to vote - Brown leads 51-29%.
The findings are based on a turnout model - derived from questions probing respondents' likliness to vote -- that includes 44% Democrats, 35% Republicans and 19% independents. The 9-point differential between Democrats and Republicans is 4 points lower than the official difference by party registration. That takes into account the "enthusiasm gap" many pollsters find during the election season.
But if Republicans turn out in vastly higher numbers and Democrats don't, the race could certainly be closer than PPIC suggests. On the other hand, the survey only includes 49% women, which is likely 2-4 percent too low -- which would advantage Brown and Boxer.
While Brown leads Whitman on voters' beliefs about who would do a better job on education, environment and immigration, Whitman leads on two of the most compelling issues - jobs and the economy, and state budget and taxes. But PPIC did not ask questions about character or qualifications - two concerns the Brown campaign believe precede voters' views about issues.
The data make it clear why, in the closing days of the campaign, Whitman continues to hammer on Brown's record on jobs, taxes, the death penalty and pensions, while Brown is emphasizing Whitman's truthfulness, experience, self-interest and integrity.
While just half the Democrats say they are satisfied with their choices of candidates in the governor's race and 46% say they're not satisfied, only 38% of Republicans are satisfied compared to 58% who are not satisfied.
Satisfaction doesn't seem to be preventing either Brown or Whitman from consolidating their party base: Brown has 76% of the Democrats and Whitman has 73% of the Republicans. But given that Whitman has spent so lavishly - explaining that she must do this because Brown is so well-known and the unions are funding him to the hilt - it is astonishing that nearly six in 10 Republicans are not happy with their choice.
The relatively large number of undecided voters -- 16% -- is at least partly a function of PPIC's polling technique: they do not ask undecided voters for whom they are leaning, a question that many pollsters use to better simulate a final vote.
In the race for U.S. Senate, Boxer commands Democrats, Women, Latinos, liberals and - importantly - moderates. She also kills Republican Fiorina in Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
But Fiorina is closer to Boxer than Whitman is to Brown because she is not only ahead among Republicans, conservatives and voters in Southern California outside of LA, she also leads Boxer among men, whites and voters in the Central Valley. Only independents are a wash.
According to the special Calbuzz crosstab, Boxer has the liberals 81-4% and Fiorina has the conservatives 69-13%. But moderates are tilting 51-24% for Boxer - which explains why Boxer is emphasizing Fiorina's very conservative views on abortion, offshore oil drilling, environment and other issues that cast her GOP opponent outside of the California mainstream.
Voters are more satisfied with their choices for Senate than they are their choices for governor: Democrats are satisfied 67-27%, Republicans are OK with their choice 61-34% and independents say they're satisfied by 51-41%.
None of the propositions PPIC tested appear in great shape: Prop. 19, to legalize marijuana, is trailing 44-49%; Prop. 23, to overturn the state's greenhouse gas controls, is losing 37-48%; Prop. 24, to repeal a law giving business a tax break, is behind 31-38%, with 31% undecided; and Prop. 25, to lower the threshold to pass a budget to a majority, is leading just 49-34%.
PPIC surveyed 1,802 adults by landline and 200 by cell phone, Oct. 10-17. Included in the sample were 1,067 respondents identified as likely voters, for whom the margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points. (The cell phone interviews, however, were with adults who have both cell phone and landline service, not just those who have a cell phone only - a demographically distinct, and more Democrat-leaning, group.)
PS: We note with some disgust that the Wall Street Journal broke PPIC's embargo on this survey. We're not sure where they got the numbers but they may have figured them out from the Brown campaign's 1:30 pm conference call when the survey was discussed. Calbuzz, however, has played by the rules.
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