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Californians less pessimistic about the country’s future

Merrill Balassoneby Merrill Balassone

While Californians are still largely skeptical about the direction the United States is headed, their optimism about the country’s future is at its highest point in recent years, according to the results of the latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll.

With the election less than two weeks away, the survey of registered voters shows that a majority of Californians, 51 percent, think the country is “seriously off on the wrong track” compared to 39 percent who said things are headed in the right direction.

When this question was previously asked in August 2011, 73 percent said they believed the country was on the wrong track as compared to 16 percent who said the country was headed in the right direction.

“As California begins to see the first signs of economic recovery, the state’s voters are slightly more upbeat about the future than they were at the depths of the recession,” said Dan Schnur, director of the poll and director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “But it’s been a difficult stretch over the last few years for California and its people, so it’s going to be awhile before we start seeing real levels of optimism again.”

Obama maintains double-digit lead over Romney

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll also showed that President Barack Obama continues to hold a commanding lead over Republican nominee Mitt Romney, a lead that has held relatively steady over the past year. But support for Obama has not yet reached the level the president achieved in 2008, according to the poll.

Statewide, 55 percent of voters support the Obama/Biden ticket compared to 39 percent who back Romney/Ryan.

The gap has tightened slightly, by 3 percentage points since May, when 56 percent of voters said they support Obama compared to 37 percent for Romney.

In the 2008 presidential election, Obama captured nearly 61 percent of California voters.

Obama has earned support from women and Latino voters at roughly the same levels as he did during the 2008 presidential race, according to the poll, which showed 73 percent of Latinos and 61 percent of women support Obama compared to 19 percent of Latinos and 34 percent of women who back Romney.

Romney leads Obama among white voters in California (49 to 46), and Obama holds a slim lead over Romney among male voters (48 to 44). Black voters overwhelmingly support Obama over Romney (93 to 4).

Eighty-four percent of registered Democrats favor Obama compared to 10 percent in favor of Romney. Among registered Republicans, 81 percent support Romney versus 14 percent for Obama. Decline-to-state voters favored Obama to Romney, 58 percent to 34 percent, respectively.

The gap between support for Obama among younger voters and older voters remains large: 63 percent of voters aged 18 to 49 support Obama compared to 32 percent in that age group who favor Romney. Among voters aged 50 and over, 48 percent favor Obama and 45 percent favor Romney.

Feinstein looks poised for re-election

Californians are largely supporting Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein for re-election, with 55 percent of voters in favor of re-electing the incumbent compared to 38 percent choosing Republican challenger Elizabeth Emken.

Despite the state’s Democratic leanings, Californians were equally split when asked whether they believed government can play an important role in the economy or whether they thought government has gotten too big and is preventing economic growth, with 47 percent of voters agreeing with each statement.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll was conducted from Oct. 15-21 by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Republican polling firm American Viewpoint. The full sample of 1,504 registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus percentage points.

Follow all election news coverage at Election 2012, a resource for journalists and others interested in politics created by USC Media Relations.

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