In anticipation of the upcoming midterm elections, the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times discussed the results of their latest public opinion poll project in a conference call on Monday.
The four topics assessed in this month’s poll included the California gubernatorial race, unaccompanied minors migrating to the United States, Proposition 46 and police discrimination in local communities.
Panelists speaking in the conference call included Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/L.A. Times Poll project and executive director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC; distinguished Unruh Institute fellow Michael Madrid; and Drew Lieberman and David Kanevsky from the polling firms Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and American Viewpoint, respectively.
This month’s poll results revealed a high amount of political support for incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown (D) in his campaign for reelection against Republican candidate Neel Kashkari. When voters were asked which candidate was opposing Brown, many were unable to even identify Kashkari.
If the election were held today, Brown would defeat Kashkari 57 to 32 percent, according to a press release from Dornsife. The results showed that Brown has the support of 82 percent of Democrats and 18 percent of Republicans. Kashkari, meanwhile, has the support of 72 percent of Republicans and 10 percent of Democrats. Among voters who declined to state a party affiliation, 59 percent supported Brown, and 25 percent supported Kashkari.
Dornsife and the L.A. Times partnered in November 2009 to conduct statewide public opinion surveys, initially to cover electoral trends. Since then, the two institutions have expanded their research and have conducted more than 20 polls surveying registered California voters on a wide range of political, social and economic topics.
Kanevsky said that the wide range of issues up for a vote this year will allow voters to make more critical choices.
“Throughout the different topics we have on this survey — the water crisis, looking at the views on medical malpractice reform, immigration and police — I’d say there is a lot of nuance in the California electorate,” he said. “People think voters are uninformed, not thinking of the issues, just voting on partisan lines or ideological lines. You really don’t see that here. Voters are judging every issue on a different context and weighting the pros and cons for all of them.”
Issues concerning illegal immigration showed a divided electorate. Kanevsky said there was a split between voters who wanted to implement wide-ranging youth immigration reform, but opposed measures to raise taxes or contribute monetarily for legal aid.
“Comprehensive youth immigration reform still gets very broad support, 73 percent favor overall,” he said. “But, then you go and look at the unaccompanied minors questions that ask whether they should stay or be sent back and the opinions are much more divided,  percent in favor and 46 percent opposed.”
Lieberman emphasized that immigration was a topic of high importance to California voters.
“I think there is a current situation that underscores the level of concern that California voters have about illegal immigration,” he said. “A third of the voters here believe illegal immigration is a crisis — a crisis is a pretty high bar to cross.”
Other issues, such as police relations in the community and Proposition 46, have gained more attention recently among voters.
Proposition 46, a measure that would increase the caps on medical malpractice lawsuits and require drug testing of doctors, has lost significant support, according to the polling results. The first batch of data released from the polls revealed 62 percent of voters in support of the initiative. Later polling results, however, show only 39 percent of voters supporting the proposition.
Schnur said that the language of the proposed measure is misleading.
“They [the writers of Proposition 46] tried to cover up a very controversial policy measure with a very popular one,” Schnur said. “But a ballot initiative is only as strong as its weakest link, and the polling shows that voters’ concerns about medical malpractice are outweighing their eagerness for doctors to be drug tested.”
Meanwhile, 85 percent of Californians said that police had not treated them unfairly in the past year. The results follow nationwide controversy regarding use of police force this past summer after Michael Brown, a black teenager, was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
In the same poll, however, two-thirds of respondents said they believed others had been mistreated by police.
“The good that the police and cops do, outweigh some of the bad a few members in the police force may do,” Kanevsky said.