Gavin Newsom, Dianne Feinstein lead in UC Berkeley pre-election poll

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UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, or IGS, released its final pre-election poll Wednesday, showing that Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and incumbent U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein lead the polls for California Governor and U.S. Senator, respectively.

The report shows that Newsom is leading against his competitor, Republican John Cox, 58 percent to 40 percent. Feinstein has 45 percent of voter support, while her competitor Kevin de León has 36 percent.

In addition to surveying voter preferences for the governor and Senate races, the poll also included results for lieutenant governor, state superintendent of public instruction and insurance commissioner. Propositions 6 and 10 were also polled.

The poll found that Eleni Kounalakis, running for lieutenant governor, holds a solid lead over fellow Democratic candidate Ed Hernandez, 45 percent to 31 percent. In the race for insurance commissioner, Independent Steve Poizner is ahead of his Democratic opponent Ricardo Lara by 5 points. Lastly, in the race for state superintendent of public instruction, Marshall Tuck appears to lead Assemblymember Tony Thurmond 48 percent to 36 percent.

IGS Poll Director Mark DiCamillo noted that the IGS poll is unique from other surveys because it does not only include races between Democratic and Republican candidates. Since California has nonpartisan primaries, some races — such as the election of U.S. senator this year — feature two candidates from the same party.

The report also shows that the survey results are highly partisan. In races where only Democrats are running for office, Republicans are largely either undecided or will choose to not vote.

“You’re talking about choice between two candidates, both of whom are uncalibrated with voters,” DiCamillo said. “The state that we’re in is hyperpartisan.”

This phenomenon, according to DiCamillo, is “interesting.” He said he suspected more divisions within the Republican party because of President Trump’s election in 2016, but Republicans seem more loyal to party lines than expected.

According to the report, 1,339 registered voters completed the online survey for the poll. Those surveyed were chosen randomly from a list of California registered voters and were sent an email invitation. Reminder emails were sent out to those who did not respond. The poll was completed from Oct. 19 to Oct. 25.

DiCamillo said IGS has transitioned to online polls because of the lack of voter responsiveness to phone calls. Online polls also allow pollsters to list candidates and description of propositions — information that was previously difficult to relay over the phone, according to DiCamillo.

“I think the method we’re using at Berkeley is working well,” DiCamillo said. “It’s almost like we’re replicating a ballot.”

Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy Henry Brady said the IGS poll’s methodology is “reasonable,” but acquiring an accurate poll is difficult.

Brady, however, noted that the IGS report does not state what percentage of the people who received the email actually responded to the poll.

“It could turn out that one side or the other could be more motivated to respond to emails,” Brady said. “That can give you a sense that that side is doing better.”

In terms of accuracy, Brady said the poll shows legitimate outcomes for how some races could end. With the wide support for both Newsom and Feinstein, Brady said he is not surprised the results show they are both in the lead. Brady said, however, that the races for lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner are less predictable.

Despite polling results showing decisive leads by certain candidates, Brady encouraged voters to go out and vote.

“At this point — even a week before the election — you can’t assume the results are right, and you need to know that your vote still matters and you need to get out there,” Brady said.

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.