Capitol Weekly/Probolsky poll: Whitman lead growing

Former eBay executive Meg Whitman has opened up a wide lead in the Republican race for governor, according to the latest Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research poll.

About a third of Republicans and decline-to-state voters who said they intend to vote Republican said they favor Whitman, who has a 3-to-1 edge over rival contender Tom Campbell, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner remains stuck in a distant third, with 5.5 percent of Republican support.  

The numbers show a significant increase in recent weeks for Whitman that reflects her prodigious spending. Already, seven months before the primary and full year before the general election, Whitman has spent more than $19 million. The level of spending is remarkable, even in a state accustomed to multimillion-dollar campaigns.

“It turns out that spending $20 million in California can increase your name I.D. and put you at the top of the polls, but whether that translates into being elected remains to be seen,” said pollster Adam Probolsky. “Certainly, money has not always been the deciding factor in California politics.”

The survey of 750 registered voters was conducted from Oct. 26 through Oct. 28 and has a margin of error of 3.7 percent. Those surveyed were identified as likely primary election voters, including those who had voted in at least three of the last five elections. Because of rounding, some figures in the survey were higher or lower by less than one-half of 1 percent.

Whitman’s support shows a significant migration of backing from Campbell, a GOP moderate. An Oct. 8 Field Poll showed Campbell with 20 percent support among Republican primary voters and Whitman with 22 percent – a statistical tie. In the same poll, Poizner had 9 percent. The Field survey included responses of registered voters – a wider universe than the respondents of likely voters used for the Capitol Weekly/Probolsky survey.

But less than four weeks later, Whitman’s lead has widened dramatically, reflecting a shift among GOP voters and independents who are likely to vote Republican.

Whitman has “done a blitz of ads throughout the state, and she’s used the household brands that she’s been associated with, from Hasbro to Disney to Proctor & Gamble to put her in a position that people associate with success,” Probolsky said. “But people know very little about her, other than what she’s telling them, except for a limited amount of information based on media reports about her voting record.”

The latest Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research Poll shows Whitman with 34.3 percent among Republicans and declined-to-state voters who said they would select a Republican ballot in the primary election. Campbell was 12.5 percent.

However, Whitman suffered lingering damage over her spotty voting record. About a third of Republicans said her voting past made no difference, but more than half said her record made them less likely to vote for her.

Poizner, meanwhile, was hurt by a $21,000 donation he made to the presidential campaign of former Vice President Al Gore. More than two-thirds said they were less likely to vote for him.

In the survey, Whitman, who has been barred from using “former eBay executive” as her official ballot designation, was identified as a “businesswoman.”

On the Democratic side, Attorney General Jerry Brown had a commanding lead over San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who dropped from the race on Oct. 30, two days after the survey was completed.

The poll offers a vivid look at Newsom’s poor numbers as he prepared to leave the race. Brown received 42.6 percent of Democrats’ support, while Newsom was favored by about 18 percent of Democrats and by independents who said they likely would vote Democratic.

The complete results and methodology of the poll can be viewed at or

In other findings:
–About four in every 10 Democrats surveyed said they were more likely to vote for Newsom because of his position on gay-rights.

–Jerry Brown’s age – he’ll be 72 next year – is a positive or neutral factor with voters. About two-thirds said they were more likely to vote for him or that age didn’t matter. Less than 30 percent said they were less likely to vote for Brown because of his age.

–The ethnic breakdown of those surveyed was about two-thirds white, 12 percent Latino, 4.5 percent Black, 3.9 percent Asian, and 8.3 percent other. The remainder declined to identify ethnicity.

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