And here it is in a nutshell: the poll shows a lot of Republican voter support for Poizner's tough talk on denying state services for illegal immigrants, but decidedly strong support -- even among Republicans -- for a "path to citizenship" that the candidate decries as "amnesty."
The USC College/Los Angeles Times poll, published over the last two days, found reasonably the same overall results in the primary race for governor as others: Poizner lags rival Meg Whitman by a substantial margin. The poll also found Whitman with a slight lead in a hypothetical November matchup against Democrat Jerry Brown.
But more interesting, and perhaps a better gauge of the chances of success for Poizner to close that gap, are several questions related to illegal immigration. Here are the two relevant questions, as they were asked:
I would like you to tell me whether you support or oppose [each] policy.
Implement stronger enforcement at the border and prohibit those here illegally from benefiting from any taxpayer funded social services, including emergency room treatment and public education for children
Implement stronger enforcement at the border and set up a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants who admit they broke the law, perform community service, pay fines and back taxes and learn English.
In question 1, 45% of all those polled voiced either some or strong support for denying access to taxpayer funded services, while 46% voiced either some or strong opposition to denying those services. Among Republicans -- Poizner's target for his tough talk on refighting the Proposition 187 battle -- total support for denying services soars to 61%. As blogged about a couple of weeks ago, that fight presents its own set of risks.
But it's question 2 that we're going to focus on this time, about a "path to legalization."
67% of those questioned voiced support, while only 26% voiced opposition. But those are the macro results of the poll; dig into what are known as the 'cross tabs' and you find 65% of Republicans say they support the "path to legalization" as defined, as do 61% of respondents who describe themselves as conservative.
"I was surprised by that result," said Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, who conducted the survey alongside Republican pollster Linda DiVall, in a conference call with reporters this morning.
Now... scroll back up to the wording of the question and the proposal... and then watch the Poizner campaign ad attacking Whitman on the issue of "amnesty."
If you're like me, the position that Team Poizner derides as wrong... "the Whitman/Obama policy," as the ad calls it... is, in fact, the one that even a strong majority of Poizner's base June primary voters support.
So be it, says his campaign.
"Steve believes that amnesty is defined as presented in [the poll] question," wrote campaign spokesperson Bettina Inclan in an email. "So yes, he would be opposed to that question."
It's worth noting that the poll question mirrors part of a proposal put forward in a recent Washington Post op-ed by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). And the reality is that this is not a state issue, per se, but instead a federal one. Still, if this specific immigration issue is one which Poizner believes is a winner for him come election day, then the new poll suggests he's got some work to do in changing the minds of voters.