Whitman has said that her campaign will be powered in part by women, but so far she is doing better among men -- 40% of men back her, compared with 30% of women.
The GOP Senate race was even more wide open, with 7 in 10 voters saying they knew too little to have an impression about Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, or DeVore, a conservative assemblyman from Irvine.
In a head-to-head matchup, DeVore and Fiorina each won the support of 27% of Republican primary voters. But given the fresh nature of the race -- Fiorina announced her candidacy last week -- neither candidate is yet dominating in areas they have tried to stake out.
Fiorina has gone after women voters, but, like Whitman, was running better among men.
DeVore has hammered Fiorina as being a tool of party moderates, but she was doing about as well as he among his conservative targets.
On the Democratic side, unofficial gubernatorial candidate Brown -- governor from 1975 to '83, then a presidential candidate, Oakland mayor and attorney general -- was benefiting both from his well-known name and the race's atmospherics thus far.
Brown's favorability margin was the best in the poll aside from Obama -- the percentage of voters who liked him was 17 points higher than those who did not. He was particularly appreciated by older Californians, who are among those most likely to vote.
Asked whether Brown, has "the experience and knowledge to lead California" or, rather, is "a career politician whose ideas are old," a slight plurality of voters opted for experience. Even in inland California, the locale least friendly to Brown, almost 4 in 10 voters chose experience.
Similarly, when asked if they prefer a candidate who has experience in business or one with a political background, voters were split. That result, analysts said, suggests that California is not yet willing to purge all politicians, as it did in 2003 with the election of actor Schwarzenegger.
"It doesn't feel like a change election," said Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, who helped craft the survey. "Jerry Brown has the experience they need -- they are looking for someone who can manage."
The poll underscored why Brown's only announced opponent, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom left the race in late October, while the survey was in the field. According to the poll, almost 3 in 5 Californians didn't know enough about Newsom to form an impression. Of those who did, an almost identical percentage liked as disliked him.
Like Brown, Boxer has long been a polarizing figure in the state. In this survey, a slightly higher percentage of voters looked kindly on her than on Brown, but a substantially larger percentage of voters disliked her. At this stage of the Senate race, her strong suits appear to be the passion of her supporters, and the broader voter insistence in supporting Obama.
While voters in Tuesday's gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey did not respond to Obama's pleas that they elect Democrats, Boxer may well be able to make the argument that as a senator she will actually be voting for the agenda that voters say they support. And so far, she is making that argument in a state where Obama retains much of his allure among voters.
"The biggest question for Barbara Boxer and her opponent is whether Barack Obama's coattails are longer for senators than they are for governors," said USC's Schnur.