State schools chief race tight

In addition to the governor’s race in the upcoming November 4 statewide elections, California voters will be asked to make choices in seven so-called “down ballot” races. These include the six partisan election contests for Lt. Governor, Attorney General, State Controller, State Treasurer, Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner, as well as the non-partisan office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

In its latest statewide survey, The Field Poll asked voters to offer their impressions of the candidates, and their current voting preferences in each contest if the election were being held today. The full survey and a description of its methodology can be found here.

The results show that most of the candidates are not very well known to the likely voting public. However, each candidate is viewed more favorably than unfavorably among voters who can offer an opinion.

In each of the six partisan races the Democratic candidate currently leads his or her Republican rival, but by varying margins. The closest partisan contest is the election for Secretary of State, in which Democratic State Senator Alex Padilla is running seven percentage points ahead of Republican Institute Director Pete Peterson, 43% to 36%, with 21% undecided.

In addition, the poll finds a statistical tie in the non-partisan contest for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Likely voters currently divide 31% in support of educator Marshall Tuck, 28% for incumbent State Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson, and a huge 41% undecided.

There has not been much advertising so far in these seven statewide races, nor have they received much media coverage. As a result, the poll finds likely voters largely in the dark about many of the candidates. However, each is viewed more positively than negatively among those voters able to offer an assessment. Table 1 below shows the degree to which likely voters offer an opinion of each of the candidates and the extent to which those with an opinion give a favorable or unfavorable assessment.

The poll finds the Democratic candidate leading his or her Republican rival in each of the six partisan contests, but by varying margins. The closest race is the election for Secretary of State. In that contest, Democratic State Senator Alex Padilla currently runs seven percentage points ahead of Republican Institute Director Pete Peterson, 43% to 36%, with 21% undecided.

Preferences are even more closely divided in the non-partisan election for State Schools Superintendent. In that race, the challenger Tuck is currently the choice of 31% of likely voters, the incumbent Torlakson 28%, while a huge 41% are undecided.

Ed’s Note: The findings in this report are based on a Field Poll completed August 14-28, 2014 among 467 voters considered likely to vote in the November 2014 general election. The maximum sampling error for the overall likely voter sample is +/- 4.8 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. 


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