University of Southern California

Election 2012

Source Alert

California Attitudes

May 30, 2012

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Despite President Barack Obama’s announcement that he favors legalizing same-sex marriage, 75 percent of Californians say gay marriage won’t be a major issue or will be just one of many factors they consider at the ballot box. Peer into the minds of California voters with the new USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll.

Twenty percent of California voters say they will only vote for a candidate who shares their views on same-sex marriage. Among these voters for whom gay marriage is a decisive issue, neither side appears to benefit: 21 percent of same-sex marriage supporters and 21 percent of voters who oppose gay marriage or who support civil unions say they will only vote for a candidate who shares their views on the issue.

Of statewide voters surveyed May 17-21, 46 percent believe gays and lesbians should have the legal right to marry, 25 percent say gay couples should have the same legal rights as straight couples, and 13 percent say there should be no legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples. (In 2010, the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll showed Californians supporting same-sex marriage by a 52-40 margin.)

“President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage has attracted a huge amount of public and media attention, but it doesn’t appear that it has changed very many votes,” says Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC and director of the poll. “Strong partisans on both sides of this issue may feel more intensely about Obama than they did previously, but same-sex marriage will be much more of a motivator for the two parties’ ideological bases than a persuader for swing voters.”

Overall, seven out of 10 voters — including 40 percent of Republicans — say they favor full legal rights for gay and lesbian couples. Fifty-six percent of Californians say they plan to vote for Obama and 36 percent choose Republican front-runner Mitt Romney; this mirrors long-held support in California for Democratic candidates.

Other Issues: Health Care, Spending, Taxes

Obama’s approval rating among Latino voters has grown since the last USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll. Currently, 72 percent of Latinos say they approve of the job Obama is doing, compared with 22 percent who disapprove. In March 2012, Obama’s approval rating among Latinos was 65-27.

California voters also overwhelmingly favor the president’s approach over Romney’s on several issues, including the interests of women, support for the middle class, and health care affordability.

When asked who would do a better job protecting the interests of women, voters favor Obama over Romney 59 percent to 23 percent. On health care accessibility and affordability, Obama leads Romney 57 percent to 23 percent. And when asked who would be a stronger voice for the middle class, 56 percent of voters pick Obama and 29 percent choose Romney.

Californians are evenly split on who they believe is strongest on the issue of spending: 41 percent of voters pick Obama, and 41 percent choose Romney.

When asked who has the right approach to budget deficits, 45 percent of California voters choose Obama, while 34 percent pick Romney. Forty-nine percent of voters agree with Obama’s stance on taxes, while 34 percent support Romney’s approach.

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