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FIELD POLL: Voter preferences in 'down ballot' state races

By Mark DiCamillo and Mervin Field

August 1, 2006

There is considerable variance in the degree to which the major party nominees for the six "down ballot" races for state constitutional offices on the November ballot are known to rank-and-file voters.

In general, those candidates who presently hold or have previously campaigned for statewide office are better known and start with an edge - large in some cases - in early voter preference over their rivals.

For example, Oakland Mayor and former Governor Jerry Brown, and Attorney General Bill Lockyer, have very large early leads over their Republican rivals in their respective bids for Attorney General and State Treasurer. Two other Democrats - Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi and State Board of Equalization member John Chiang - also hold smaller leads in their respective races for Lt. Governor and State Controller.

Voter preferences in two other statewide election contests for Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner are more closely divided in the early going.

These are the results from The Field Poll's first statewide survey since the June 6 primary election, in the upcoming statewide elections for the six "down ballot" constitutional offices.

Lt. Governor

The two major party candidates running for the office of Lt. Governor are Republican State Senator Tom McClintock and Democrat Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi.

Both candidates are reasonably well known to voters statewide and each has a highly favorable image.

When likely voters in the November general election are asked who they would choose if the election for Lt. Governor were held today, Garamendi has an early 48% to 38% lead over McClintock.

Attorney General

In the race to become State Attorney General, Democrat Jerry Brown is much better known to potential voters than his GOP rival, State Senator Charles Poochigian. Four out of five likely voters (81%) have an opinion of Brown, and those who view him favorably outnumber those who hold an unfavorable opinion 45% to 36%.

Poochigian is relatively unknown at this point in the campaign, with just 16% of voters voicing an opinion, dividing 9% favorable and 7% unfavorable.

A Brown vs. Poochigian preference measure in the Attorney General race shows Brown with an early 54% to 33% lead.

State Treasurer

The major party candidates for State Treasurer are Democratic Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Republican Claude Parrish, a member of the State Board of Equalization.

About six in ten (59%) likely voters have an opinion of Lockyer, with sentiment dividing almost three to one favorable (43% to 16%). Four in ten voters (41%) have no opinion of Lockyer.

By contrast, a very large majority of likely voters (86%) has no opinion of Parrish. Among the 14% who know something about him, 9% hold a favorable opinion and 5% an unfavorable view.

Lockyer leads Parrish 52% to 27% when voters are asked who they'd support if the election for State Treasurer were held today.

State Controller

In the election for State Controller, Democrat John Chiang, a member of the State Board of Equalization, is facing Republican former Assemblyman Tony Strickland.

Both candidates are not well known to voters, with large proportions of voters - 82% in the case of Chiang and 81% for Strickland - having no opinion. Among the small proportions of voters able to rate each of the candidates, those holding a favorable opinion outnumber voters with an unfavorable view.

When voters are asked who they'd support for State Controller if the election were today, early preferences divide sharply along partisan lines, and Chiang holds a 38% to 27% overall lead. A large proportion of voters (34%) are undecided.

Insurance Commissioner

Democrat Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante is running against Republican businessman Steve Poizner in this year's election for State Insurance Commissioner.

Bustamante is by far the better known candidate, with 81% of likely voters holding an opinion of him. However, more voters hold a negative than positive view of Bustamante (43% to 38%). One in five (19%) have no opinion.

By contrast, 85% of likely voters have no opinion of Poizner. Of the 15% who know something about him, opinions are mixed with 7% holding a favorable view and 8% having an unfavorable impression.

When the two candidates are paired against one another in an early preference test, voters are closely divided, with 43% favoring Bustamante and 39% supporting Poizner.

Secretary of State

The major party candidates in this race are appointed incumbent Republican Bruce McPherson and Democratic State Senator Debra Bowen. Very large proportions of likely voters have no opinion of either candidate - 72% in the case of McPherson and 84% for Bowen. Yet, both hold a more favorable than unfavorable image among voters who have an opinion.

Early voter preferences are closely divided in this contest, with Bowen the choice of 38% and McPherson 35%.

The findings in this report are based on a random sample survey of 762 likely voters in California's November general election. Interviewing was conducted by telephone in English and Spanish between the period July 10-23, 2006.




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