SACRAMENTO - Republican Meg Whitman may be gaining ground among ethnic voters in the California governor’s race, but blacks, Latinos and Asian Americans still prefer the Democratic Senate candidate, incumbent Barbara Boxer, by wide margins over GOP challenger Carly Fiorina, according to the latest California Field Poll released Thursday.
Overall, Boxer held a three-point edge—47 to 44 percent—over Fiorina, the former CEO of computer giant Hewlett-Packard. This was a slight increase from the one-point lead Boxer posted in the last Field poll in March, but far below the 15-point advantage she held at the start of this year.
Among ethnic voters, however, Boxer, running for her fourth Senate term, remains comfortably ahead, with 55 percent of Latinos, 53 percent of Asian Americans and a whopping 81 percent of blacks expressing support. These voters cancelled out Fiorina’s 52 percent to 41 percent lead among whites.
By contrast, in the governor’s race, Asian Americans favored Whitman over Brown, 38 percent to 36 percent. Among Latinos, Brown had an 11-point advantage—or less than half of Boxer’s 23-point lead among the same group.
DiCamillo said Boxer’s support among ethnic voters is based in name recognition rather than issues. “At this point, a greater familiarity and comfort level with Boxer is the main reason why she continues to hold substantial leads among Latino and Asian-American voters.”
“This was not the case in the governor's race with regard to Brown and Whitman,” DiCamillo added. “In fact, for many younger ethnic voters, Whitman was the better- known candidate.” DiCamillo pointed out that Fiorina has so far put less effort than Whitman into reaching out to minority groups.
“Barbara Boxer has been around most of my life, ” explained 26-year-old Jeannie Kang, a Korean American attorney from Los Angeles who supported Boxer and Whitman in the survey. Kang favored Boxer because she wants someone with experience who can deal with private interest groups during this critical period in California, while she supported billionaire Whitman mostly because she’s heard more about her than Brown, thanks to her huge spending advantage in advertising. But before casting her ballot in November, Kang said she plans to spend more time understanding the candidates’ positions.
On the other hand, Nancy Huang, a Chinese American real estate agent in L.A. who also prefers Boxer and Whitman, said the jobs of senator and governor call for different skill sets. Senators, she said, are “responsible for protecting and fighting for California’s rights—we need someone with political experience to do that.” For governor, however, Huang is looking for someone with administrative and business experience—Whitman was CEO and president of the auction site eBay—who can help revive California’s struggling economy.
DiCamillo found it interesting that Asian-American voters remain loyal to the Democrat in the Senate race but are open to a GOP candidate for governor.
Chinese American Chihhsien Kuo, a computer engineer from Santa Clara and registered independent who also favored Boxer and Whitman in the poll, said he cares more about a candidate’s political agenda than his or her party, especially when it comes to education issues, because he has three children in public school.
Similarly, Huang, a registered Democrat, said party loyalty is not something she will worry about come November. What California really needs now, she said, are competent leaders, no matter what party they belong to.