Amid the most expensive and one of the meaner Republican primary fights ever in California, Steve Poizner has moved within striking distance of Meg Whitman, whose support has plummeted in the last 60 days, according to the latest survey by the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California.
The survey, completed Sunday and including 411 likely Republican primary voters, found Whitman with 38% and Poizner at 29% leaving 31% undecided. The finding represented a huge surge for The Commish, from 11% in March, and a precipitous drop for eMeg, from 61% in March. The margin of error for the GOP primary results was ±5%.
The new survey is the first substantive, independent evidence of the big Poizner move, a trend first claimed by his own campaign two weeks ago, when his strategists released some of their internal polling, and suggested by other private and media polls.
According to PPIC, the biggest movement away from Whitman was among non-college graduates, among whom she lost 29 percentage points, and — somewhat counter-intuitively — voters with incomes greater than $80,000, among whom she lost 28 points. The survey did not shed much light on why the race has tightened.
Nevertheless, the often low-key, academic and understated PPIC was impressed enough by the results to title its release: “Stunning Drop in Whitman’s Support Transforms GOP Race for Governor.”
With Whitman dropping another $4 million on Tuesday, bringing her total to a staggering $68 million, it remains an open question whether Poizner has the will to throw enough of his own money into the race. He’s in for $24 million thus far. But unless he pours big money into the final weeks — and spends it on a sharp and effective message — it’s hard to see how he can close the gap.
PPIC also found that while the Republicans have been slicing and dicing one another, Democrat Jerry Brown has retaken the lead in simulated November match-ups against Whitman and Poizner. Krusty the General leads eMeg 42-37% (compared to trailing 39-44% in March) and he leads the Commish 45-32%, unchanged from previous surveys.
The general election match-ups were based on interviews with 1,168 likely voters for a margin of error of ±3%.
In the increasingly contentious GOP race for the U.S. Senate, Carly Fiorina and Tom Campbell remain locked at 25-23% (it was 24-23% in March), while Chuck DeVore has doubled his support to 16%. Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer still defeats all three GOP challenges in simulated match-ups: 46-40% over Campbell; 48-39% over Fiorina, and 50-39% over DeVore.
Against Whitman, Brown holds 70% of the Democrats, while she holds 69% of the Republicans. But Brown has a small lead — 38-34% — among the pivotal independent voters, according to PPIC.
The survey also shows a marked gender gap, with Whitman holding a tiny 42-40% lead among men but Brown holding a substantial 45-33% lead among women. This could prove highly significant since part of the rationale for a Whitman candidacy is that she would have a theoretical possibility of peeling women away from Brown in a general election. Thus far, that dynamic is not in evidence.
Bad News for Our Friends at Flash Report
Straight from PPIC’s release:
“Of the four main spending categories of the state budget, Californians are the most willing to consider a tax increase to spare K–12 education from budget cuts (69%), while just over half would pay higher taxes to maintain current funding levels for higher education (54%) or for health and human services (54%). A large majority (79%) opposes paying higher taxes to spare prisons and corrections from budget cuts.
“Californians would consider some other ways to raise revenues: 67 percent favor raising the top rate of the state income tax paid by the wealthiest Californians and 58 percent would favor raising state taxes paid by California corporations. Residents are much less likely to support extending the state sales tax to services that are not currently taxed (35%) or increasing the vehicle license fee (28%).”
Pre-Gnawing on a Fresh Bone
BTW, when we read Steve Harmon’s piece about eMeg’s Mike Murphy trying to pre-spin the PPIC poll, we were really proud that Ye Ole Swashbuckler Murph hadn’t tried to pre-spin Calbuzz. We figured he thought we wouldn’t drink his Kool-Aid. But after our Wednesday item dissing the Fox & Hounds poll, Murph wrote to us insisting we are dead wrong.
“You’re 12 days behind,” Murph wrote. ” Truth is Meg is way up now. SBAC poll is right. Actually latest numbers are more than +25. Two new private polls. Why do you think Poiz won’t release his POS tracking? Ad you panned worked really well. You gotta spend more time with GOP primary voters and you’d understand. I’m not trying to place an item, just telling you what’s true.”
And thank you for that.