Field Poll: Brown Over Whitman By 10

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There's a reason that everyone loves the famous photo of Harry Truman holding up the newspaper that mistakenly pronounced his political death: it seems to prove that 'it ain't over 'til it's over.'

Perhaps Meg Whitman and her supporters won't exactly spend the final few days of this 2010 gubernatorial contest channeling Truman, but there's a growing sense out that the CEO-turned-candidate will have to pull off one of the greatest California comebacks in recent memory to become the state's next governor.

This morning's Field Poll seems to confirm the findings of every other recent statewide polls and puts the race for governor into pretty solid Democratic control: Jerry Brown 49%, Whitman 39%, 5% someone else, 7% still undecided.

The poll was taken over a 12 day period that ended Tuesday; Whitman loyalists will no doubt call the results stale, while Brown backers may say the long time frame confirms that the trend line is real and not temporary. And let's face it, fighting over the methodology of polling has been one of the biggest subplots in this epic race. Both Brown and Whitman's camps have dismissed some polls, lauded others, and generally beat up the political press corps for its reporting on almost all polling.

Yes, the Field Poll is but one survey... but it also seems to fall in line with every single recent look at the race, including the PPIC poll last week, the Los Angeles Times/USC poll over the weekend, and a CNN sponsored poll released just yesterday.

There's a lot of reporting that will be done today on the poll, so let's just focus on two numbers: the preferences of independents and Whitman's unfavorable rating vis-a-vis Brown.

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First, independent voters. They're breaking Brown's way in this poll 49%-33%. Yes, 18% say they're still undecided, but that leaves a very tough hole for any GOP nominee in this state to dig out of, given the calculation that Republicans don't win statewide races in California without a big push from independent voters. The new numbers are a 16 point net swing from Field's last survey a month ago, which had Brown and Whitman splitting the independent vote at 38% each.

Then there's the poll finding that 51% of those surveyed say they have an unfavorable opinion of Whitman, a six point uptick since September. It's been a rough month for the candidate, from the ex-housekeeper fracas to a multi-billion dollar barrage of union-sponsored ads and beyond.

Of course, Whitman also unleashed her own expensive ad assault on Brown, yet Field finds his unfavorable rating unchanged at 47%.

There are other fascinating numbers in this survey, too. Brown leads with absentee voters who've already mailed in their ballot; he seems to lead in all subgroups except for Vietnamese Americans; 14% of Republicans actually say they're going to back him; and he's up by a whopping 28 points in vote-rich Los Angeles.

Polls have been wrong... so have newspaper headlines. But several independent groups of campaign watchers now seem to be saying that the most expensive statewide campaign in U.S. history is going to have to find something other than money to help turn the tide in the final hours.

The poll should be online soon here.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.
  • StephenG

    Here is another fascinating number: 55%; the number of California voters who voted by mail, beginning three weeks ago.

    Therefore, Brown (who banked a huge stockpile of mail-in-votes two weeks ago when he was ahead by double digits) is inoculated against any last minute Whitman “surge”.