SACRAMENTO (Legal Newsline) - California gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown has a narrow lead over his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, according to a poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times and University of Southern California's College of Letters, Arts & Sciences.
The poll is part of a series of six statewide opinion polls that began in November 2009 and will continue until the November elections this year. The most recent poll, released over the weekend, surveyed 1,511 registered voters in the state, including 887 likely voters, from Sept. 15-22.
Brown, the former governor and current state attorney general, held a 49 to 44 percent advantage among likely voters over Whitman, the billionaire former chief executive at eBay. Five percent were undecided.
The survey also found Whitman has yet to convince crucial groups of voters that her businesswoman background will translate into government success.
The Republican, who has spent a national record of $119 million of her own money on her campaign, also was hamstrung by voters' negative impressions of her, the poll found.
The survey showed Whitman has had trouble connecting with voters, polling 12 points behind Brown on whether she "understands the problems and concerns of people like me."
Also, Whitman scored positively among only 36 percent of voters, versus Brown's 48 percent, according to the poll.
Brown also leads among all three groups Whitman set out to conquer. According to the survey, women were siding with him 51 to 42 percent. Latinos backed him by a 20-point margin. Younger voters, typically a source of support for Democrats, were only narrowly in Brown's corner.
The race appeared to be resting less on issue positions than on notions of character and personality, according to statistical analysis of which aspects of the poll were having the strongest impact on the outcome.
Whitman led Brown when it came to traits that flow from her corporate experience -- she was judged better on having new ideas, energy and decisiveness. She trailed significantly, however, when voters were asked which candidate understood them, and which could get the job done.
And by a 2-1 margin, voters said they wanted a governor who would be conciliatory rather than single-minded -- echoing the characterization Brown has made of himself and Whitman.
The Times/USC poll was conducted by the Democratic firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the Republican firm American Viewpoint. The margin of error for the likely voter sample was 3.3 points in either direction.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.