TITLE: Polling in the Governor's Race in California

AUTHORS: Mark Baldassare, Mark DiCamillo, and Susan Pinkus

PAGES: 40      DATE: May 2003

ABSTRACT: The November 2002 election in California had the lowest voter turnout and the largest number of third-party gubernatorial candidate votes in the state’s history. In the governor’s election on November 5th, Democratic incumbent Gray Davis defeated Republican challenger Bill Simon by a 5-point margin. This paper summarizes the pre-election surveys that were conducted by our three polling organizations prior to the 2002 general election in California-the Field Poll, the Los Angeles Times Poll, and the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Statewide Survey. We focus our analysis on the political and economic context of this election, insights from a special survey on public attitudes toward the campaigns that was conducted up to the day before the election, the methodologies used in the pre-election surveys to overcome the challenges in this political environment, and a comparison of pre-election survey results to the Los Angeles Times exit poll. Taking into account variations in methods, low voter turnout, third-party voting, and voters’ ambivalence toward the major party candidates, the pre-election surveys in the 2002 California governor’s election were consistent over time and across polling organizations, and reasonably accurate in predicting the election results.

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