USC Schwarzenegger Institute California Issues Poll

USC Schwarzenegger Institute California Issues Poll

The USC Schwarzenegger Institute California Issues Poll is a representative survey of California registered voters and was fielded from 10/27/2020 to 10/31/2020.

Questions and Media Inquiries:

Please contact Dr. Christian Grose at cgrose@usc.edu.

Key Summary of USC Schwarzenegger Institute California Issues Poll

The USC Schwarzenegger Institute completed its second USC Schwarzenegger Institute California Issues Poll of 2020 and interviewed a representative sample of 1,155 California registered voters.

• Several questions asked about the possibility of a U.S. Senate vacancy if Senator Kamala Harris is elected vice president. Other questions included voters’ open-ended views on the issues the Trump administration will focus on in 2021 if he is reelected; and the issues the Biden administration will focus on in 2021 if he is elected. Other questions asked about voting rights and Governor Schwarzenegger’s democracy grants administered through his USC Institute.

California voters are looking for a fresh face in their next U.S. Senator. California voters want a senator with “a fresh and new voice in politics” (76%), a senator with legislative experience (75%), and a senator who will “chart their own course and distinguish themselves” from Senator Dianne Feinstein (77%). Voters prefer someone with experience in Washington (29%) over experience in Sacramento (23%), though a plurality of voters prefer someone who is not part of Washington or Sacramento (48%).

Appointing a historic first doesn’t matter to most voters. A majority of voters don’t care if Governor Newsom makes a “historic first” choice. 52% say this doesn’t matter. 14% of voters hope Newsom picks the state’s first Latino U.S. senator, 7% hope he picks the state’s first LGBT U.S. Senator, and 17% indicate a preference for the first Latino and the first LGBT U.S. Senator. Summing together, 31% want Newsom to pick the state’s first Latino U.S. Senator and 24% want Newsom to pick the state’s first LGBT U.S. Senator.

Representative Barbara Lee leads the head-to-head for U.S. Senate. Voters don’t know the leading candidates to replace Senator Kamala Harris. In a head-to-head question, voters were asked “Which of the following people would you most prefer to be appointed U.S. Senator from California?” This question pitted seven individuals that Newsom could choose for U.S. Senator, and a majority of voters (52%) selected ‘don’t know.’ Of those receiving support, Representative Barbara Lee leads (11%). All others are in single digits (8% Ro Khanna; 8% Alex Padilla; 7% Karen Bass; 6% Robert Garcia; 3% Toni Atkins; 2% Libby Schaaf).

Mayor Robert Garcia leads when voters are asked about each U.S. Senate candidate individually. Voters were asked about supporting each possible candidate without the head-to-head matchup following short biographical descriptions: “Would you support or oppose [name] as the next U.S. Senator from California?” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia received a majority of support (57%). Following Garcia were Representative Karen Bass (53%), Secretary of State Alex Padilla (53%), and Representative Barbara Lee (51%). Three others were supported by a plurality of the state’s voters, but were below 50% support (Schaaf 47%, Khanna 46%, Atkins 40%).

California voters rate wildfires and climate change as the most important issue facing California right now (24%), even above COVID, the second most important issue (15%). Californians also support Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s initiative through the USC Schwarzenegger Institute to award nonpartisan democracy grants to open more polling places across the U.S. South (76% strongly support and 14% somewhat support).

Survey methodology: The USC Schwarzenegger Institute California Issues Poll was conducted from October 27, 2020 to October 31, 2020. A representative polling sample of 1,155 registered voters was drawn using voter data from Political Data, Inc. The survey questionnaire was designed by USC faculty and was fielded by the USC Schwarzenegger Institute-USC Price California Issues Poll survey team via Qualtrics. For final results, we used post-stratification weighting for age, education, gender, income, ethnicity/race, and party registration. Respondent survey weights were done using the ‘anesrake’ package in the statistical program R. This statistical raking package uses the weighting algorithm developed by Josh Pasek and that is used in the American National Election Study. This algorithm uses an iterative and multiplicative raking model to generate individual weights for each respondent. The baseline universe of interest is the population of California registered voters. Response options to all questions without ordered choices were randomized. The two questions regarding the issue focus of Trump and Biden were presented in random order; and the questions about potential Senate replacements for Sen. Kamala Harris were also presented in random order. Respondents were given the choice of ‘don’t know’ unless not displayed in results below. In the topline results and cross-tabulations, totals may not sum to 100 due to rounding. The survey was written in both English and Spanish. The margin of error is +/-3%.

USC Schwarzenegger Institute-USC Price California Issues Poll Team, Fall 2020

  • Dr. Christian Grose, Academic Director of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute and Associate Professor, University of Southern California and Director of the California Issues Poll
  • Dr. Mindy Romero, Director of the USC Center for Inclusive Democracy and Research Professor, University of Southern California
  • Dr. Pamela McCann, Associate Professor of Public Policy, University of Southern California
  • Dr. Abby Wood, Associate Professor of Law, Political Science, and Public Policy, University of Southern California
  • Dr. Christian Phillips, Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations, University of Southern California
  • Raquel Centeno, University of Southern California, Ph.D. Student
  • Bijean Ghafouri, University of Southern California, Ph.D. Student