Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman has suffered a “stunning drop” in voter support in her race for the Republican nomination for governor of California, according to results of a statewide survey released last night by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute.
Less than a month before the primary, Whitman’s lead over Steve Poizner, state insurance commissioner, has narrowed to nine points – 38 percent to 29 – among likely GOP voters. Nearly one Republican voter in three is still undecided, the institute reported, despite a saturation barrage of hard-edged TV ads aired by the candidates.
Flickr photo by Cali12345
In March, when the institute last polled on the race, Whitman led Poizner by a seemingly insurmountable 50 points – 61 percent to 11 – with 25 percent undecided.
Since then, Whitman’s support has “plummeted” by 23 points, the institute said in a news release, as she dropped at least 17 points among every Republican demographic group.
The deepest erosion was among voters who haven’t graduated from college (a drop of 29 points) and those whose household incomes are $80,000 or more (a drop of 28 points.) A plurality of voters in all demographics groups still support Whitman, the institute said.
Mark Baldassare, the institute’s president, said the poll results indicate that the election is up for grabs.
“Voters are alienated,” he said in a statement. “Republicans are struggling to figure out what to do about it and what their party stands for.” Democrats “aren’t going through this soul searching,” he said, largely because their top races are already settled.
In possible November matchups, Attorney General Jerry Brown, the presumed Democratic nominee, leads Whitman 42 to 37 percent. He leads Poizner 45 to 32 percent.
In the GOP race for U.S. Senate, former Rep. Tom Campbell and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina are deadlocked (25 to 23 percent, or within the poll’s margin of error), while state Sen. Chuck Devore is now the choice of 16 percent of prospective GOP voters. Sen. Barbara Boxer, the incumbent Democrat, leads both prospective Republican challengers: She’s favored over Campbell 46 to 40 and over Fiorina 48 to 39 percent.
California voters strongly favor Prop. 14, an initiative that would change primary elections to make them less partisan, with 60 percent of prospective voters supporting, and 27 percent opposed, the institute said. Voters are split right down the middle, 49 to 48, over an initative to legalize marijuana. It’s favored by younger voters, Democrats, and residents of the Bay Area, the poll found, and opposed by Republicans, Latinos and older voters.
Actually, Whitman fared better in the institute’s poll than she has in other recent surveys.
Last week a SurveyUSA poll commissioned by four California TV stations showed that Poizner had surged to within two points of Whitman.
Democratic operatives who are watching the race say the momentum shift came when the issue of Whitman’s ties to the Goldman Sachs investment bank emerged last month, first in news reports, then in TV ads sponsored by Poizner – and, separately, by Democratic-backed political committees.