Suffolk Poll of California: Incumbent Boxer with 9 Point Lead for U.S. Senate

10/26/2010

Democrats are in the driver’s seat in California one week before election day, with U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and Attorney General Jerry Brown holding sizable leads over their Republican rivals in the races for U.S. Senate and governor, according to the latest Suffolk University poll.

Democratic incumbent Boxer (52 percent) leads Republican and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (43percent) by 9 points, with only 2 percent of likely voters remaining undecided. The third party candidates showed modest numbers as Libertarian Gail Lightfoot (2 percent), American Independent candidate Edward Noonan (1percent) and Green Party candidate Duane Roberts (1percent) rounded out the slate for U.S. Senate. 

In the race for governor, Democratic candidate Brown (50 percent) is poised to win the top job in Sacramento, with an 8 point lead over Republican and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (42 percent). As with the U.S. Senate race, most likely voters have made up their minds. Only 3 percent said they were undecided. American Independent candidate Chelene Nightingale has 2 percent, Green Party candidate Laura Wells has 1 percent, Libertarian Dale Ogden has 1 percent, and Peace and Freedom candidate Carlos Alvarez has 1 percent.

 “The Golden State is looking to be a fairly deep shade of blue, with both Boxer and Brown reaching the all-important 50 percent mark, making it very difficult for either statewide Republican to catch their Democratic opponent,” said David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Boston’s Suffolk University. “However, if the Democratic voters don’t show up next Tuesday, both of these races could be very close.”

Early voting signals a closer race and stronger support for Republican candidates, with Brown (48 percent) leading Whitman (45 percent) by 3 points among the 18 percent of respondents who said they have already voted. Similarly, among voters who say they’ve already cast a ballot, Boxer (49 percent) led Fiorina (48 percent) by just 1 point.

Brown is buoyed by urban support in the Bay Area (+31 points) and Los Angeles (+32 points), which are his strongest regions, and by younger voters aged 18-44 (+26 points). Also despite Whitman being a female candidate, Brown has firm control of the female vote leading by 21 points. Whitman led among men, the Orange County/San Diego area, and the North/Central California area.

President Barack Obama enjoyed his highest approval rating in California (57 percent favorable – 37 percent unfavorable) compared to other statewide Suffolk polls taken in the last two weeks from Florida (48 percent favorable), Connecticut (54 percent favorable) and Nevada (52 percent favorable).

Hillary Clinton (60 percent favorable – 29 percent unfavorable) remains the most popular politician of the eight public figures polled. This mirrors findings in the Suffolk University polls of Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Nevada, and Massachusetts likely voters in the last five weeks.

Democratic candidates remain far more popular than their Republican counterparts in California. Boxer holds a 49 percent favorable rating, compared to 43 percent of likely voters who have an unfavorable view. Her opponent Fiorina is seen much less positively, with 34 percent favorable – 49 percent unfavorable.

Nancy Pelosi, a target for Republicans nationwide, even struggles in her home state, with a 39 percent favorable – 48 percent unfavorable rating. Whitman’s struggles may also be tied to outgoing Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who leaves office with a dismal 32 percent favorable – 55 percent unfavorable rating.

In the race for Attorney General, Democrat Kamala Harris barely leads Republican Steve Cooley 35 percent to 34 percent, although Cooley led among early voters. Green Party candidate Peter Allen has 2 percent, American Independent candidate Diane Beall Templin has 1 percent, Libertarian Timothy Hannan has 1 percent and Peace and Freedom candidate Robert Evans has 1 percent, with 26 percent of likely voters remaining undecided.

An overwhelming majority believe that the recession is not over in California. Only 5 percent indicate it is, while 92 percent say it’s not over. And when likely voters were asked if the job situation will improve in the next six months, only 32 percent indicated yes, while 59 percent said no. When asked if California is headed in the right direction only 13 percent said right direction, while 73 percent said the state is on the wrong track.

Current issues in California that were polled included Proposition 19, which proposes to legalize marijuana for personal use by people 21 years or older. When asked if they support or oppose Proposition 19, 40 percent of likely voters said they supported the bill, 55 percent of likely voters said they opposed the legalization of marijuana, and only 6 percent of likely voters remain undecided on the issue.

In the bellwether San Benito County, Democrats continue to lead both races but by closer margins. Boxer leads Fiorina by 6 points, 44-38 percent, while Brown is ahead of Whitman by only 4 points, 45-41. In both races the undecided numbers were markedly higher at 13 and 11 percent respectively. In 2006, San Benito County was within 2 points of the statewide numbers for all candidates in both the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.

Methodology

The statewide survey of 600 California likely voters was conducted Oct. 21-24, 2010 using live telephone interviews. The margin of error is +/- 4.0 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. The San Benito County bellwether included 300 likely voters polled 10/23-10/24. Bellwethers are designed to predict outcomes, not margins. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data will be posted Tuesday, Oct. 26 at noon on the Suffolk University Political Research Center Web site: http://www.suffolk.edu/research/1450.html. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, dpaleologos@suffolk.edu.

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