Poll Analysis: Down-Ballot Races and Propositions

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California voters most likely to cast ballots on November 3rd are poised to pass Proposition 5, the Indian Gaming initiative, but are tending away from Proposition 9, the Electric Utilities Assessment bill. Support for Proposition 10, which would levy a 50 cent per pack cigarette tax, is waning, according to a recent Los Angeles Times Poll conducted October 17-21.
      With less than two weeks to go until the election, the survey found incumbent Kathleen Connell with a 23 point lead over her Republican challenger Ruben Barrales in the race for state controller. Other down ballot races garner much less interest among voters, however. The poll measured slender Democratic leads in many of California's other state races, but the small margins and high level of voters who remain undecided in these less visible races mean that last minute advertising and positioning by the candidates could completely change the political landscape by the time election day dawns.

Ballot Propositions

      Prop 5: The Tribal-State Gaming Compacts, Tribal Casinos Initiative Statute.
      The vast majority of California's voters considered most likely to cast ballots on November 3rd are aware of Proposition 5--the Indian gaming initiative--and most are for it. Nine out of ten say they have seen a commercial on the subject, either pro or con, and most (79%) have seen ads presenting both sides of the issue. When asked if they have heard or read about the proposition that has pitted California Indian tribes against Nevada casino owners in a barrage of television and radio advertisements, only 1 in 5 likely voters said they had not heard or read enough about it to have formed an opinion. Just over half said they were inclined to vote for the proposition, while 29% said they were inclined to vote against it. After being read the ballot language for the initiative, 58% of likely voters said they would vote for it if the election were being held today, 32% said against (only 10% were still undecided.)
      Awareness and positive inclination to vote for the initiative that will legalize casino-style gambling on tribal lands is slightly higher than the Times Poll found in a survey conducted one month ago, according to the latest survey. In late September, 45% of likely voters were inclined to support the initiative, a number that rose to 59% after voters were read the ballot description.
      Likely voters who said they had seen a negative ad were as supportive of the initiative as those who said they had encountered an advertisement in favor of the ballot initiative, possibly indicating that the "no on 5" advertising has not been effective in changing voters' minds.
      Conservative Republicans are the only group of likely voters able to muster much opposition to the initiative. Half of that group would vote against it if the election were being held today, 4 of 10 would vote for it and 1 of 10 aren't sure. Republican likely voters overall are split 46% for, 45% against while 9% aren't sure.
      Proposition 5 finds strongest support among liberal Democrats and Democratic men most likely to vote--71% of each group would vote for Proposition 5 today. Likely voters who make less than $20,000 per year in household income (67% for, 25% against), residents of Los Angeles County (69% for, 19% against), Democratic women (66% for, 21% against) and Davis voters (67% for, 22% against) are other groups who support the initiative.

      Proposition 9: The Electric Utilities Assessments, Bonds, Initiative Statute
      When likely voters were read Proposition 9's title (the way it will appear on the ballot) and asked if they had heard or read about it, more than half (55%) said they had not. The initial reaction to the initiative among those who had an opinion was negative, 37% said they were inclined or were leaning toward voting against it while only 8% said they were inclined to vote for it.
      After hearing the ballot description, the yes vote increased to 25%, but a 42% plurality of likely voters said they would vote against it. One third of likely voters remained unsure of their inclination even after hearing the official description. This may not be terribly surprising given that the ballot language is a tangle of taxes, nuclear power plants and rate reduction bonds. Independent likely voters were most inclined to oppose Proposition 9--58% said they would vote no while 15% said yes and 27% weren't sure. The biggest pool of yes votes was found among Democratic men who can only muster a modest 40% to 41% split on the issue with 19% undecided.
      Proposition 10: The State and County Early Childhood Development Programs, Additional Tobacco Surtax Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute Awareness of the initiative that would impose a 50 cent per pack cigarette tax is high--two of every three likely voters had heard or read something about it. Thirty-seven percent said they were inclined or leaning toward voting no, while 29% said yes.
      After being read the ballot language, likely voters showed a possible inclination toward passing the initiative, 47% to 43% with 10% not sure. This is not a statistically significant lead, however, and shows a drop in support from a month ago when a Times Poll survey measured the yes vote 16 points ahead, suggesting that the "No on 10" advertising which accuses the proposition of creating bureaucracy and not funding programs about smoking is finding its target.
      The survey found Proposition 10 pits smokers (who comprise 14% of California's likely voters) against those who no longer smoke or never did. Likely voters who smoke are heavily against the proposition, with nearly three in four opposing it, while 24% said they would vote yes and only 2% were not sure. People who never did or do not now smoke supported the initiative with 51% voting for, 37% against and 12% not sure.

State Races

      Lieutenant Governor
      Cruz Bustamante, Democratic nominee for the office of lieutenant governor, has opened up a nine percentage point lead over Republican Tim Leslie (35% to 26% with 35% still undecided among likely voters) on the strength of a coalition of his own party, independent voters, and moderates. The Times Poll measured this race as a dead heat one month ago. In the latest survey, 59% of Democrats and one third of independents support Bustamante in his bid to become California's second in command while 53% of the state's Republican likely voters support Leslie. Leslie's support is strongest among Republican men at 59%, and 61% of conservative Republicans are in his corner. Republican women support him less strongly at 46% while nearly the same number (43%) are still undecided. Nineteen percent of Republicans who do not consider themselves conservatives support Bustamante, as well as 40% of moderates. The high percentage of voters still unsure of their choice in this race and given that the candidates were just beginning their ad campaigns as this survey was in the field, the final outcome is less than certain. It is interesting to note that if he can translate his lead into a win at the polls November 3rd, Bustamante will be the first Latino elected to a California statewide office in over a century.

      Secretary of State
      Democratic challenger Michela Alioto has gained some ground and with over a week to go until the election, may be giving incumbent Secretary of State Bill Jones a run for his money. One month ago, the Times Poll measured a slender (and statistically insignificant) five point lead for Jones, but Alioto has seemingly closed the gap in the most recent survey with 39% of the vote among likely voters to Jones' 37%. Twenty-four percent of likely voters remain uncommitted to a candidate in the race for Secretary of State, so this one remains wide open. A plurality of independent likely voters said they will cast their vote for Jones, while a virtually identical proportion of Democrats (65%) and Republicans (63%) most likely to vote indicated they support their respective party's candidate. Similarly, 64% of liberals supported Alioto and 63% of conservatives supported Jones. Alioto, however, garnered nearly half (48%) of the vote among self-described moderates while 21% of this group supported Jones and 30% are still undecided. Ideology as much as party seems to be a dividing line in this race, since 72% of conservative Republicans likely to vote support Jones while the moderate Republicans' vote is split between the candidates.

      Attorney General
      A Times Poll conducted one month ago found Dave Stirling and Bill Lockyer running in a dead heat (30% to 31% among likely voters with 39% undecided) in their race for attorney general, but the most recent Times Poll finds Lockyer--the Democratic candidate and a long time member of the state legislature--has pulled ahead by 13 percentage points over Stirling--the Republican candidate and current deputy attorney general--and now leads 41% to 28% with another 31% of likely voters still undecided. Lockyer enjoys strong loyalty among his own party's likely voters, with 72% of Democrats giving him the nod, while 56% of Republicans are in Stirling's corner. A plurality of Independent likely voters and 10% of Republicans also go for Lockyer, contributing to his double digit lead. In this race, as in all the down ballot races, the high number of Californians who remain undecided are a bloc that the candidates will be hoping to sway in either direction through a strong last minute advertising campaign.

      Republican Ruben Barrales, a supervisor in San Mateo County, has been unable to effectively catch voters' attention in his campaign waged against incumbent Controller Kathleen Connell. Barrales trails 24% to Connell's 47% while 29% of likely voters are still unsure of their choice. Less than half (47%) of Republican likely voters back Barrales, while nearly 1 in 5 support Connell. Connell also garners the plurality of the vote among moderate Republicans (although 50% of that group has yet to decide for whom to vote) while conservative Republicans are Barrales' strongest support faction at 57%.

      State Treasurer
      Curt Pringle, Republican candidate for state treasurer, may be positioned to fail in his second bid for the office, according to the latest Times Poll survey. Pringle lost to Matt Fong four years ago and is running seven percentage points behind Democrat Phil Angelides in the current race at 32% of the vote to Angelides' 39% with 28% undecided among likely voters. In this fairly close race, independent voters make the crucial difference, since Democrats and Republicans line up evenly along party lines. A plurality of independent likely voters have yet to choose a candidate, however, making Angelides' seven point lead among this group look rather fragile. This race can still swing either way.

      Insurance Commissioner
      Only 16% of likely voters in California have not yet made up their mind for whom to vote in the contest for insurance commissioner. In the world of down-ballot races, this low figure is almost more intriguing than the steady 8 percentage point lead Republican incumbent Chuck Quackenbush continues to enjoy over challenger Diane Martinez--measured at 46% to 38% among likely voters. Quackenbush's lead remains unchanged since it was measured in late September. The low margin of undecided allows Quackenbush's stated support to approach the illusive 50% among likely voters, a rare accomplishment among the lesser state races. Quackenbush enjoys a fairly wide popularity across party groups--20% of likely Democratic voters support Quackenbush, as do 56% of independents, 19% of liberals, 37% of moderates and 72% of conservatives. Martinez's basis of support comes from members of her own party (64%) and self-described liberals (66%). The voting public's higher awareness of this race may also be due to Quackenbush's use of his position to run non-political public awareness commercials.

      Superintendent of Public Instruction
      Incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin has strengthened her lead among likely voters over challenger Gloria Matta Tuchman slightly with 34% to Matta Tuchman's 12%, although the lion's share of these voters (54%) have yet to make up their minds. One month ago, a Times Poll survey measured this non partisan race at 11% for Matta Tuchman, 27% for Eastin and 62% unsure.

      How the Poll Was Conducted
      The Times Poll contacted 1,449 California registered voters, including 883 voters deemed most likely to vote, by telephone October 17-21. Telephone numbers were chosen from a list of all exchanges in the state. Random-digit dialing techniques were used so that listed and non-listed numbers could be contacted. The entire sample was weighted slightly to conform with census figures for sex, race, age, education, region and registration. The margin of sampling error for registered voters is plus or minus three percentage points and for likely voters, it is four points. For certain subgroups the error margin may be somewhat higher. Poll results can also be affected by other factors such as question wording and the order in which questions are presented.Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. Although Asians were interviewed and included in the sample, there were not enough of this group to break out separately.