With just one week to go until election day, Governor Gray Davis is running ahead of challenger Bill Simon by nine percentage points among likely voters, many of whom would prefer to be voting for someone else, according to the latest Los Angeles Times poll
The survey found California's likely voters concerned that the gleam is off the Golden State -- more than half (52%) said that the state is seriously off on the wrong track, compared to 37% who said things are going in the right direction these days. Over the last year, Californians have watched helplessly as recession and high energy costs drained once-full government coffers, leaving the state deeply in the red.
Countdown to November 5th
The Governor's Race
Gray Davis leads Bill Simon by 45% to 36% among likely voters. A Times poll last month found the vote nearly identical to what it is today, despite last minute flurries of advertising on the part of the campaigns.
The closest contender after the top two -- Green Party candidate Peter Camejo -- is trailing at 5%. Despite what seemed like a perfect opportunity for a third party candidate to catch voter imagination in a race in which most ballots will be cast for the lesser of two evils, Camejo's support rises to double digits only in the northern portion of the state -- 11% in the Bay Area and 10% in the portion outside the Central Valley. It is tough for third-party candidates to raise the sort of money required to run a campaign in this state. Davis has raised $67 million in campaign funds over the past four years, and millionaire businessman Bill Simon has loaned his campaign $10.25 million from his own pocket.
Other candidates tested in the race for governor are Reinhold Gulke of the American Independent Party, who garnered 1% of the vote, Iris Adam, the Natural Law candidate (1%), and Gary David Copeland (1%), the Libertarian candidate. Three percent said they'd vote for someone else, and 8% remain undecided.
Californians are largely pessimistic about the way things are going in their state and the race for governor -- between an incumbent under whose watch California's economy stumbled and a challenger whose campaign has been staggering under mismanagement, misstatements and a an inability to attract donors -- has done little or nothing to lighten voter negativity. Over half (56%) of likely voters who plan to vote for one of the two major candidates said that they chose him because he is "best of a bad lot."
Simon voters in particular are holding their noses as they vote -- nearly two-thirds of his voters said they chose him because he is better than the alternative, while 29% said they will be casting a vote for him and his policies. In another situation, the fact that Davis voters split 49% to 48% over whether they were happy to have him as a candidate or not would seem quite dismal, but in this context the finding that nearly half his voters are satisfied with their choice makes him appear almost popular.
Negative campaigning on both sides has had some effect on voter outlook. The percentage of likely voters who said that neither candidate has the honesty and integrity to serve as governor rose from 16% last month to 24% today. In September, six in 10 said Davis was running the more negative campaign, a figure which has dropped to 46% today. The proportion who said Simon is running the more negative campaign doubled from 13% to 25% and those who said both equally from 12% to 19%.
Likely Democrats polled 74% for Davis and 10% for Simon. Republican likelies supported Simon over Davis by a very similar margin of 75% to 12%. Just under half of those who decline to state a party (independents) would vote for Davis, 19% for Simon, and 9% for Camejo.
Davis led Simon in most areas of the state, the exceptions being the portion of southern California outside LA (44% Simon to 41% Davis) and in the Central Valley (43% to 36%.) Enthusiasm for Davis was highest in the LA and northern California (including the Bay Area but outside the Central Valley) where he led Simon by more than 20 percentage points in each case.
Latino enthusiasm has diminished somewhat for Davis, the candidate seven out of 10 voted to elect in 1998. It is still high, however, with Latino likely voters in this survey choosing Davis over Simon by more than two to one. Fifty-seven percent of Latino likely voters would mark a ballot for Davis if the election were held today, while 25% would pick Simon and only 4% -- smaller than the statewide vote -- would choose Camejo. Twelve percent of likely Latinos remain undecided.
The share of Latino likely voter support for Simon is similar to the level of support given past Republican candidates by that group. For example, Times Poll exit polls show that 23% of Latinos voted for Dan Lungren over Davis in the 1998 Governor's election, and 24% of California Latinos voted for George W. Bush in the presidential election two years ago.
Davis voters, asked to name one or two reasons why they chose their candidate, most often volunteered he is "the best choice" (24%), they like the job he is doing (16%), they would vote for any Democrat (17%), they agree with his stand on the issues (14%), they don't like Simon (10%) and they approve of his handling of education (11%.)
In general, opinion of Governor Davis has become slightly more negative over the last month. In September, the Times Poll found likelies narrowly divided in their impressions of Davis -- 48% had a favorable opinion and 51% did not. In this survey, Davis' numbers have shifted slightly lower -- 42% now say they have a favorable opinion of him, while 56% do not. His job rating is also slightly lower, at 46% approval to 51% disapproval. Likely voters asked the same question by a Times Poll survey last month split 48% to 48%. In this survey, three in ten express strong disapproval of the governor's handling of his job.
A great deal of Simon's appeal to his voters evidently comes from the fact that he is not Governor Davis (38%), as well as because he is the best choice for the job (18%), that he can bring needed change to the state (12%), or that he is a Republican (10%.)
Most likely voters have a negative impression of Simon. Just under one third said they feel favorably about the GOP candidate, compared to nearly three out of five who do not. There has been little change in this negative impression over the last month, when the Times Poll measured it at 35% to 51%.
When matched up on various issues, likely voters chose Davis over Simon when it comes to who would be best at handling public education (54% Davis to 27% Simon), crime (43% to 31%), the economy (41% to 36%), and homeland security (43% to 28%. ) Likely voters also picked Davis as the stronger leader by 49% to 27%, and said Davis knows more about California than Simon by 69% to 12%.
Likely voters chose Simon over Davis by 41% to 32%, however, on the sore-point issue of the energy crisis, and were more divided when it came to who has the most honesty and integrity and who shares their values. Thirty-five percent said Davis is more honest than Simon, while 26% said the opposite. Nearly a quarter said neither candidate has those trustworthy qualities. Thirty-eight percent said Davis shares their values, compared to 32% who feel closer to Simon's point of view, while 22% said neither candidate fits the bill.
Voters cite Davis as being the worst of the two when it comes to negative campaigning -- 46% said he was running a more negative campaign than Simon while a quarter said the opposite. Nearly two in 10 said both were running equally negative campaigns.
Among likely voters ... at least half of all Democrats (74%), self-described liberals (76%), union members (57%), Latinos (57%), working women (50%), the lowest income residents (51%), and people living in LA (52%) support Davis.
Simon finds his greatest support among Republican likelies (75%), conservatives (72%), whites (44%) and white men (53%).
Male likely voters are split -- 42% Davis vs. 43% for Simon -- while 49% of women voted for Davis and 29% for Simon.
Davis' leadership ability is an issue which divides the state's likely voters. Forty-nine percent disagreed when asked whether Davis has shown decisive leadership while serving as governor. Forty-five percent agreed. This shows a marked change from last month when likely voters gave him credit for good decision making by 50% to 44%.
Still, when asked to pick which of the two leading candidates has stronger leadership qualities, nearly half chose Davis over Simon by the substantial margin of 49% to 27%. Another two in ten said that there was no difference or that neither had those abilities.
Davis has come under fire among Latino leaders in the state for vetoing legislation which would have allowed illegal immigrants (if they agree to background checks and apply for citizenship) to receive driver licenses. However, it is questionable whether that decision has hurt him among his Latino supporters. The survey found that two-thirds of Latino likely voters supported the governor's action -- slightly higher even than the 63% support found among likely voters statewide.
Likely voters also support the governor's signing of legislation that gives farm workers the use of mandatory mediation when contract negotiations with growers stall by 62% to 25% who disapprove. Latino likely voters approve even more strongly, by 74% to 15%.
Davis gets highest marks for his handling of public education. Likely voters approve of the job he is doing in that area by an 11 point margin -- 51% to 40%. When it comes to the state's budget and his handling of the energy situation, however, they are not as pleased. Over half (54%) gave him a thumbs-down for his handling of the budget, compared to 34% who said he is doing a good job of it. Nearly two-thirds said they disapprove of the way the governor handled the energy crisis in the state, with nearly half expressing strong disapproval. Only one in three said they approve. Even nearly four in 10 Davis voters disapprove of their candidate's handling of the energy crisis.
Down Ballot Races
The voters this election year are not too interested in the governor's race and therefore, by default are not very interested in the down ballot races. They are underwhelmed by their choices for governor and almost 3 out of 5 likely voters are voting for their gubernatorial candidate because he is the best of a bad lot. Also, none of the candidates running for Lt. Governor on down to Superintendent of Public Instruction have stirred any passion with the voters. Only now, with one week to go before the November 5th election, are some of the candidates beginning to run television ads. The secretary of state's office is predicting a similar turnout to1998, and the turnout in that election was the lowest ever in the state (at 58%).
Californians have elected in the last few election cycles mostly Democrats to the second tiered races and this year seems to be no exception. In the 1998 election, one lone Republican won his election and that was Bill Jones, the current termed out secretary of state. In this election, the Democrats have the upper hand in the down ballot races; however, the controller and secretary of state races have turned into a tight race. The incumbents are having an easier time of securing their offices for a second term.
Among likely voters, the incumbent Democrat Cruz Bustamante is beating his Republican opponent Bruce McPherson by 19 points (51%-32%) with 1% of likely voters supporting someone else and 16% saying they are undecided. Except for the Republican base (including those politically conservative), Bustamante is winning most demographic groups and all state regional breaks.
Secretary of State
The candidates running for secretary of state have tightened this race to within the margin of error since last month when the Times Poll asked the horserace question. Among likely voters Democrat Kevin Shelley gets the support of 41%, while Republican Keith Olberg is backed by 35% of the voters. One percent would vote for someone else and 23% are undecided. (In September, Shelley was beating Olberg by 14 points -- 46% vs. 32%). Independent voters likely to vote are divided 31% for Olberg and 30% for Shelley, but more than a third are undecided. A bare majority of self-described moderates are supporting the Democrat. White voters are for the GOP candidate (41%), while Latinos are for Shelley (43%). Los Angeles and Bay Area likely voters are supporting Shelley over Olberg by 15 points and 46 points, respectively, compared to Olberg getting the backing of voters in the rest of southern California (by 16 points). The candidates split voters living in the rest of northern California (38% supporting Shelley vs. 34% supporting Olberg).
This race has also tightened -- Democrat Steve Westly receives 41% of the vote, while Tom McClintock is backed by 37% of likely voters. One percent say they would vote for someone else and 21% are undecided. These results are very similar to their vote in the Times September poll. More than 2 out of five likely independent or declined-to-state voters are undecided about whom to vote for and among those who will cast a vote are split -- 28% for McClintock and 29% for Westly. Nearly half of the self-described political moderates are endorsing Westly, while 31% support his opponent. Women are supporting the Democrat (45% to 32% for McClintock), while men are slightly more for the GOP candidate (41% to 37% for Westly). White likely voters are supporting the Republican, while Latinos are backing the Democrat. Not surprisingly, Los Angeles and the Bay area are solidly behind Westly, while McClintock gets the support of the rest of southern and northern California.
Democratic Incumbent Phil Angelides is beating his Republican opponent, Greg Conlon by 9 points (42% vs. 33%). About a quarter (24%) of likely voters are undecided and 1% would vote for someone else. There is a gender gap with women supporting Angelides by 20 points, while men split their vote at 37% each. White likely voters also split their vote (39% for Conlon and 38% for Angelides), while Latinos endorse the Democratic candidate over his Republican opponent by 11 points. Likely voters living in the rest of northern California are somewhat divided over who they want as Treasurer. Thirty-four percent of those likely voters would back Conlon, while 37% would support Angelides.
Democratic incumbent Bill Lockyer is beating Republican Dick Ackerman by 18 points. Lockyer is backed by 49% of likely voters to 31% for Ackerman. Except for the Republican base and politically conservative voters, Lockyer gets the support of most demographic groups.
Although Democratic candidate John Garamendi is not an incumbent per se, he has held this office before. He has higher name recognition than his opponent, Republican Gary Mendoza and it is reflected in the horserace. Garamendi receives support from 50% of likely voters, while Mendoza receives 34%, 1% say someone else and 15% are undecided. Mendoza also gets the endorsement from his core Republican base, plus 44% of declined-to-state voters, while a third of this group are behind Garamendi. Most demographic groups were backing the Democratic candidate.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
On the election ballot, this is a non-partisan race. The candidates are state Senator and teacher Jack O'Connell and Governing Board Member of the Anaheim Union High School District Katherine H. Smith. O'Connell is beating Smith, 41% to 18%. However, 40% are undecided and 1% would vote for someone else. There is a high undecided vote in most demographic groups. But those who cast a vote were more inclined to support O'Connell.
Testing Some Propositions on the Ballot
The Times Poll measured three propositions that will appear on the November 5th ballot: Proposition 47, a bond measure to fund education facilities to relieve overcrowding and to repair older schools; Proposition 49, the before- and after-school care programs and Proposition 52, same day voter registration. Each need a simple majority in order to pass.
Proposition 47 has solid backing of 62% of likely voters. Twenty-seven percent say they would vote no on this measure and 11% are undecided. No demographic group is against this measure.
Proposition 49 is endorsed by 57% of likely voters, while 33% would vote against it and 10% are undecided. These results are very similar to the vote in the Times September poll. Republican voters are split as to whether they would vote for it (47%) or against it (44%). Self-described political conservative voters are also split (44%-45%). Otherwise, all demographic groups are solidly behind this initiative.
Proposition 52 is losing by 22 points. Nearly 3 out of five (57%) of likely voters do not want same day registration, while 35% would endorse such an idea. These results are also very similar to the vote in the same Times September poll. Eight percent are undecided. The voters that are either splitting their votes or are marginally against it are on the lower socioeconomic scale. The vote is split among those likely voters with a high school education or less (45% for the measure vs. 46% against), while voters with household incomes of less than $40,000 are slightly against it (49% to 42% for it). With those exceptions, all demographic groups are against this measure.