PPIC: Fear, Loathing and Crusty Beating eMeg


horseraceYou might expect the campaign obsessed hacks at Calbuzz to jump all over the governor’s horse race numbers in the new PPIC poll out today (this just in: eMeg Whitman is waxing her Republican opponents and Crusty the General Brown is besting her in the fall).

But then you would underestimate our humanity and our sweeping political world view.

The numbers that really jumped out and grabbed us by the throat – numbers that may well drive all politics in the coming year – are these: Half of all adult Californians and nearly six in 10 people with incomes under $40,000 are concerned that they or someone in their family will lose their job in the next year.

Although that’s an 8-point decline from January, it’s accompanied by a 6-point increase in the number of respondents who volunteered to pollsters that their family has already experienced job loss (11%, up from 5%).empty-pockets

Even worse,  65% — nearly 7 in 10 people – say they are concerned about having enough money to pay their rent or mortgage. In Los Angeles, it’s 73%!

Who gives a damn about the governor’s race if you’re worried about paying the rent?

Or, as Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California put it: “Voters have more immediate concerns than who is going to be the next governor.”

The horse race: Then again, who cares about voters? We’re junkies.

First, the GOP contest, where six in 10 Republicans likely to vote either never heard of or have no opinion about former eBay CEO Meg Whitman – the leader of that race.

In fact, undecinjection2ided is the leader with 44% — followed by eMeg at 32%, former Congressman Tom Campbell at 12% and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner at 8%.

Good thing eMeg has spent something like $20 million*, because it’s gotten her favorable all the way up to 22%, compared to a 19% unfavorable rating. Sheesh. Not much better than Campbell’s poor-man’s 16-14% but a lot better than Poizner’s negative 9-18%.

An intriguing question: Voters tell PPIC they’d prefer a candidate to raise money from supporters (49%) rather than using their own money (39%) –- among Republicans it’s 55-38%. Might we witness a bit of cognitive dissonance between voters worried about paying the rent and candidates spending like $100 million of their own money to become governor? Ya think?

Check out this nifty chart:

Which do you view most positively? Party Ideology
A candidate using mostly … Likelies Dem Rep Ind Lib Mod Cons
…his or her own money
to pay for political campaigning? 39% 42 38 29 33 42 41
…money collected from supporters
to pay for political campaigning? 49% 46 55 50 56 45 50

Or, by the time the deal goes down, will voters actually care who paid for what?

jerrymegWho will vote? Calbuzz thinks the PPIC poll, solid as it may be, has a couple problems, most notably one that a public pollster can’t easily address:  the sample of likely voters in the survey is a) inferred from an undisclosed cluster of questions asked of respondents and b) reflects the official statewide distribution of registered voters, not the likely 2010 electorate which — in our view — will be about 60% age 50 and older.

So when we look at PPIC’s November match-up of Jerry Brown versus Meg Whitman — reported at 43-37% — we think it’s likely 2-to-5 percentage points too low for Brown and too high for Whitman. Those numbers seem to us to reflect a sample that’s too young – only 44% age 55 and older — and that gives Brown a 35% favorable and a 36% unfavorable. (Most other surveys we’ve seen are closer to the Field Poll, which had Crusty’s favorable at 44-29%.)

We asked PPIC for some crosstabs by age group and they gladly obliged us, including one that shows Brown beating Whitman 44-34% among likely voters age 55 and older – strengthening  our point.

BTW, the PPIC poll has Brown beating Campbell 46-34% and Poizner 47-31% among all likely voters. They were selected, we’re told, like this: “A respondent is defined as a likely voter based on certain combinations of factors, including citizenship status, voter registration, past voting, intention to vote, and different levels of education and political interest dependent on length of time at their current residence.” Hmm.


What kind of experience matters? So who cares if the general election match-ups are a bit skewed against Crusty? Brown’s fundraising doesn’t depend on early polling at this point and neither does eMeg’s. The only people to whom it matters are Campbell and Poizner — and since Poizner has just committed to spend $15 million, he’s probably not that concerned either.

More interesting is the finding that, in choosing candidates for statewide office like governor or Senator, voters are evenly divided, at 43%, on whether they prefer candidates to have experience in elected office or experience running a business.

Democrats prefer experience in office 60-26% over experience running a business; Republicans, just the opposite, 61% prefer experience running a business and 27% prefer experience in office. Likewise, liberals and conservatives hold opposite views.

Independents — 17% of the likely voters in the survey — prefer experience in business 50-32%. But moderates — who comprise twice as big a chunk of the electorate — lean toward experience in office 44-39%.

The bottom line: All of which may ultimately prove of marginal interest if voters’ economic circumstances don’t improve by November. Slightly more than half the voters think their financial situation will get better in the coming year.

Good thing, because while 63% of those making $80,000 or more say their personal finances are excellent or good, 65% of those making $40,000-80,000 say their financial condition is only fair or poor. A staggering 85% of those making less than $40,000 say their financial situation is fair or poor.

Any candidate for high office not acutely aware of and attuned to how Californians feel about their financial and economic circumstances will clearly be seen as out of touch and irrelevant.

Six in 10 voters say the most important issue facing the people of California is jobs and/or the economy; Gov. Schwarzenegger’s approval rating is 27%, the Legislature’s is 17% and a staggering 75% of the people say the state is going in the wrong direction.

Looks like a “change” election is on the horizon. But what does that mean? Who will define it? Which candidate will personify change and which will be saddled with the status quo?

To find answers to these and life’s other persistent questions, don’t miss a single edition of Calbuzz.

*That’s a guess, of course. Officially, before her expensive radio campaign, eMeg had spent $6.2 million as of June 30.

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There are 2 comments for this post

  1. avatar sqrjn says:

    So in the face of a jobless or incremental economic recovery its gonna be the AG’s “rational experienced good governance” versus eMeg’s “small governement corporate innovator”? Sounds like the party standard dichotomy to me, and one that doesn’t play well for Republicans in bad times.

    What I don’t get is what Whitman plans on doing if she wins the primary? Maybe she just believes in magic. Seems like the AG is already holding the middle ground and he’s not even in the race yet. But I guess thats why I don’t make $20k a month.

  2. avatar Cicero says:

    No matter how Commissioner Poizner’s campaign people try to spin his continued inability to reach double digits, this is a truly dismal result for him. He’s held state-wide office for almost three years and hardly anyone in his own party knows him, and if they do, twice as many have a negative impression as have a positive one. It’s very hard to see how spending even $15 million is going to turn that around at this point. If he spends it–it seems as though the Commissioner is a bit of a tightwad when it comes to spending his own money, and nobody is going to be able to tell him (truthfully) that if he does, he’s going to win. Meanwhile, his website shows that he is below $28,000 on the way to his modest goal of raising $50K from anybody else.

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