A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll released Monday shows Republican candidates Rick Perry and Mitt Romney tied among California Republicans.
These results came days before the GOP presidential candidate debate, which was held Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. There, the eight main Republican candidates met to discuss their plans for the future and distinguish themselves from one other.
“Until about a couple of weeks ago the Republican primary was who could say the meanest thing about president Obama,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. “But as the primary gets closer it will get much nastier and
Schnur also said the debate was pivotal for Perry as he attempts to appeal to voters outside of Texas.
“The challenge for Perry is to realize that what works for Texas may not work for the rest of the country,” Schnur said.
The USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy and the Unruh Institute organized a live viewing of the debate and a discussion after with Schnur and Roberto Suro, a professor of journalism and public policy.
USC College Republicans also organized a group of students to volunteer and watch the debate in person.
The poll results, in addition to showing that Perry and Romney are tied as the leaders among the GOP candidates, indicate Californians — both Republicans and Democrats — are more interested in their politicians fighting for their causes instead of compromising.
“Voters like the idea of compromise,” Schnur said in a press release. “They just want the other side to do the compromising.”
The poll was conducted in late August, and interviewed more than 1,500 Californians from across the state to determine public opinion on the Republican primaries, the presidential election, President Obama and the upcoming anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Students’ reactions to the poll results were varied. Many were uninterested in the results and the primary process in general.
“[In] this election, versus ’08, students aren’t getting involved as much,” said Anjali Naskar, a senior majoring in international relations and global business and vice-chair of USC College Republicans. “When there’s an incumbent in office, I think a lot of students are just apathetic about [the election].”
Others said they found the poll results and debate to be important because of the power the GOP has in Congress.
“It’ll be interesting since [Republicans] control the House,” said Helen Yuan, a sophomore majoring in biological sciences and history. “It’s a good time for the [Republican Party] to step up and show off their candidates.”
Some students expressed interest in voting in next June’s Republican primaries.
“When the Republican primaries come around, I will vote for Mitt Romney,” said Elliott Kleiman, a junior majoring in history. “I [did] not watch the GOP debates though. I’ll just watch the recap online.”
The two front-runners, Romney and Perry, were followed by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) with 11 percent, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) with 10 percent and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich with six percent.
The eight main GOP candidates invited to the debate were Bachmann, Georgia businessman Herman Cain, Gingrich, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Paul, Perry, Romney and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.
Though some said they find the Republican primaries to be irrelevant in a traditionally Democratic state like California, students still find the primaries important.
“California is definitely a deep, deep blue state, but it’s important that we have a Republican presence as well,” said Emily Schrader, a senior majoring in political science and a member of USC College Republicans. “Minorities are always important.”
Students shared this sentiment, but for different reasons.
“The primaries are relevant because in 2012 we’re going to have to elect a president, and it’s going to affect our rights as college students, as well as the rights we have as adults,” said Rosie Murphy, a sophomore majoring in history and print and digital journalism.
Some students said they find the primaries frustrating because there are so many candidates that telling their platforms apart can be difficult.
“[The Republican candidates’] ideas all seem to be the same to me — very far to the right, all running on the platform of not-Obama,” said Julia Wang, a sophomore majoring in neuroscience.