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Brown opens 10-point lead as Whitman’s image deteriorates

By Steven Luo October 28, 2010 No Comments Print Share

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown has opened a 10-point lead on Republican rival Meg Whitman with less than a week to go before the election, according to a Field Poll released Thursday.

Brown, the state attorney general who served two terms as governor in the 1970s, drew the support of 49 percent of likely voters in the survey, up from 41 percent in September’s Field Poll. Whitman, the former eBay CEO, was backed by 39 percent, down from 41 percent in September.

As compared to September, Brown has improved his standing among both men and women and with all the age and demographic groups surveyed.

Brown now leads Whitman by 30 points among Latino voters, expected to make up about 20 percent of the electorate in November. The September survey showed Whitman statistically tied with Brown among Latinos — traditionally an important element of the Democratic base in California — but in late September, allegations surfaced that Whitman knowingly employed an undocumented worker from Mexico as a housekeeper and mistreated her, potentially damaging Whitman with them.

And the incident where a Brown staffer was caught on tape calling Whitman a “whore” does not appear to have hurt Brown among women, with whom he has opened up a 16-point lead. September’s survey showed Brown and Whitman tied among women, who also traditionally lean Democratic in elections.

Whitman’s unfavorable rating, meanwhile, is climbing despite her unprecedented $160 million election campaign. A majority — 51 percent — of likely voters now view Whitman unfavorably, up from 45 percent in September and 42 percent in July, while only 42 percent view her favorably, up slightly from 40 percent in September.

Much of Whitman’s record spending has been on a heavily negative media advertising blitz, which can affect a candidate’s own unfavorable ratings as well as the ones of the target of the attacks. But Brown’s own unfavorable rating remains unchanged from September at 47 percent, while his favorable rating has climbed three points — from 44 to 47 percent — suggesting Whitman’s negative ads have been ineffective and may even be hurting her more than her opponent.

And the negative ads themselves have become a point of contention in the election. At an event Tuesday in Long Beach attended by both candidates, Today Show host Matt Lauer challenged both candidates to abandon their attack ads. Brown — perhaps sensing political advantage — said he would withdraw his attack ads if Whitman did the same, while Whitman stood by her ads, drawing boos from the crowd.

Brown has opened a 28-point lead in Los Angeles, home to nearly a quarter of the state’s voters, breaking a statistical tie in last month’s survey, and has even closed to within the margin of error in the Central Valley, traditionally a Republican stronghold.

The poll’s results are consistent with other surveys showing Brown opening a lead in the final days of the campaign. A Public Policy Institute of California poll released last week showed Brown with an eight-point lead and making similar gains with women and Latinos since September.

The survey suggests 55 percent of voters will cast their ballots by mail, which would be a new record for a general election in California. Of the 21 percent who say they have already voted, 48 percent backed Brown, while 41 percent voted for Whitman.

The Field Poll was conducted between October 14 and October 26 and included 1,092 likely voters. The margin of error is 3.2 percent.

Contact Steven Luo at sluo@californiabeat.org.

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