Barbara Boxer, Jerry Brown Lead in New California Poll

Barbara Boxer, Jerry Brown Lead in New California Poll

California Democrats are taking heart from a new poll showing Jerry Brown leading Meg Whitman in the race for governor while Barbara Boxer is ahead of Carly Fiorina in the US Senate race. But with more than a month to go before the election and 10 percent of likely voters still undecided, both races – especially the Brown-Whitman contest – remain close.

This is the bottom line from a USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll released Sunday.

Brown now leads Whitman 49-44 percent, which is close to the poll’s margin of error. Boxer, meanwhile, has widened her lead over Fiorina to 51-43 percent. California’s senate race could prove crucial in Democrat’s efforts to hold on to Senate control.

In the governor’s race, Whitman’s support levels “seem to have gotten to a certain point and then stalled,” said poll director Darry Sragow in a conference call with reporters Sunday. “She gets credit for ability to tackle the economy, but Jerry is significantly ahead of Meg when it comes to ‘understands the problems and concerns of people like me’.”

“Voters give credit to Whitman when it comes to having new ideas, but they are divided on whether they want a governor with business experience or government experience,” says Sragow. “And they overwhelmingly prefer a governor who will be collaborative rather than confrontational.”

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A major factor for Brown is his significant advantage among Latinos, who comprise 19 percent of California voters. Here, he leads Whitman 55-35 percent. One factor here, points out USC College political scientist Jane Junn, the poll’s research director, is President Obama’s high favorability rating among Latinos – which is also truer for all California voters than it is for the rest of country. Brown also leads among women 51-42 percent.

Like Brown, three-term Senate incumbent Boxer leads businesswoman Fiorina on nonpolicy issues – the perception that she shares voters’ values and understands their problems and concerns.

In another recent voter survey – the Field Poll – Boxer has a 6-point lead over Fiorina. But in poll results released last week, Field shows the governor’s race to be a dead heat (41 percent each).

While much can happen between now and Election Day Nov. 2, officials will begin processing mail-in ballots this coming week. So the heat is on both parties to ramp up and focus their campaign advertising.

As with the rest of the country, turnout will be critical, and Republicans (not to mention tea partyers, who generally favor GOP candidates) are more enthusiastic about voting.

The USC College/Los Angeles Times Poll was conducted collaboratively by the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the Republic firm American Viewpoint.