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Gov. Brown holds large lead in governor’s race, USC Dornsife/LA Times Poll finds

In other results, an increasing majority of voters see the drought as a crisis and Californians favor Proposition 1

Jerry Brown in 2010
Gov. Jerry Brown on the campaign trail (Photo/Bob Brigham)

Gov. Jerry Brown maintains his lead over Republican challenger Neel Kashkari in the race for the state’s highest office, according to the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll.

If the Nov. 4 general election were held today, Brown would defeat businessman Kashkari 57-32 percent. Brown has the support of 82 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of Decline to State voters and 18 percent of Republicans. Seventy-two percent of Republicans, 25 percent of Decline to State voters and 10 percent of Democrats support Kashkari.

Brown’s approval numbers also remain strong at 57 percent, slightly higher than his 54 percent job approval rating in a May USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll, and a double-digit increase from his 44 percent approval rating in April 2011, soon after he took office. Brown’s disapproval numbers remain unchanged from May at 32 percent.

Less recognition for Republican rival

When Californians were asked if they knew the name of the current governor of California, 78 percent of voters correctly identified Brown, with 20 percent unsure. Only 20 percent of voters identified Kashkari as the Republican candidate for governor, with 79 percent unsure of the candidate’s name.

“Incumbents are defeated when the challenger gives the voters a compelling reason to make a change, and Kashkari simply hasn’t been able to attract enough attention to make that case to voters,” said Dan Schnur, director of the poll and executive director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “California is an uphill challenge for any Republican running statewide. California is an uphill challenge for any underfunded candidate running statewide. But California is a very, very steep hill to climb for an underfunded Republican candidate running for statewide office.”

Optimism for the state’s future has more than doubled compared to data from a November 2010 poll, in which only 15 percent of voters reported the state was on the “right track” and 77 percent felt it was headed in the “wrong direction.” Thirty-seven percent of Californians now say the Golden State is headed in the right direction, compared to 48 percent who disagree. Those numbers remain steady since the May poll, which found 46 percent of voters reporting the state was on the “wrong track” and 37 percent of voters feeling that the state was moving in the “right direction.”

“Brown’s popularity transcends voters’ pessimism about the direction of the state,” said Drew Lieberman, vice president of Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, part of the bipartisan team with Republican polling firm American Viewpoint that conducted the poll. “Both candidates have started to consolidate their bases, but if that happens at the same rate, Brown will benefit given that there are more Democrats in the electorate.”

The California state legislature has a 43 percent disapproval rating and 38 percent approval, showing a slight increase from May when voters reported a 40 percent disapproval rating and a 41 percent approval.

Californians support Proposition 1

A majority of voters said they would support Proposition 1 — which would authorize $7.12 billion in general obligation bonds for state water supply infrastructure projects — when they were presented with the ballot language for the proposition. Sixty-six percent of voters said they would vote “yes” on the proposition if the election was held today. Nineteen percent they would vote “no.”

However, support decreased to 57 percent versus 28 percent opposed when Californians were presented with additional information about Proposition 1. The statement they were read noted that the proposition would increase state bond repayment costs, as well as other state costs, but that it would also provide savings to water projects for local governments.

Increasing majority see drought as a crisis

The number of voters who see the drought in California as a crisis is on the rise, up 11 percentage points from a May poll. Half of the respondents agree with a description of the drought as a “crisis,” 38 percent say it is “a major problem, but not a crisis,” 7 percent said it is “a minor problem” and 2 percent say “it’s not a problem at all.”

Sixty percent of voters also report knowing of restrictions to limit water usage in their community, city or county — a substantial rise from a May poll in which only 17 percent of voters reported water restrictions in their communities. Thirty-six percent of voters in the current poll say they are not aware of any such restrictions.

“That’s a huge spike in the number of Californians who say they are facing water restrictions and that the drought has become a crisis,” said David Kanevsky, vice president at Republican polling firm American Viewpoint. “The situation has become real, and that explains why Proposition 1 is doing as well as it is, even when you attach the price tags.”

Californians are nearly split on whether they are willing to pay more for their water. When read a pair of statements, 48 percent of voters said that the statement “I would be willing to pay a higher water bill now to ensure a reliable, long-term water supply,” came closer to their views. In comparison, 41 percent of voters identified more closely with the statement, “My water bill is high enough, and I would not be willing to pay more now in order to ensure a more reliable, long-term water supply.”

When presented with proposed policies for addressing the drought and helping to conserve water in the state, Californians were most in favor of encouraging a voluntary 20 percent reduction in water use. Seventy-eight percent of voters supported the proposal and 19 percent opposed.

If the 20 percent water reduction was made mandatory, 51 percent of voters would be in favor and 44 percent opposed.

Other policy options fared worse. Increasing water rates to encourage conservation and decrease water use lost 51 to 44 percent; requiring farmers and the agriculture industry to reduce their water use lost 56 to 37 percent; and suspending environmental regulations that protect fish and wildlife was the least popular option, at 58 percent opposed versus 36 percent in favor.

Fifty percent of Californians reported that the drought has had a minor impact on them or their family on a daily basis, while 28 percent said it has had no impact at all. Twenty-two percent report that the drought has had a major impact in their daily lives, up from 16 percent who reported a major impact in May.

The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, the largest statewide survey of registered voters, was conducted Sept. 2-8 and includes a significant oversample of Latino voters as well as one of the most robust cell phone samples in the state. The full sample of 1,507 registered voters has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

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Gov. Brown holds large lead in governor’s race, USC Dornsife/LA Times Poll finds

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