Adam Probolsky on the Tends in California's Hottest Races

Pollster Adam Probolsky, CEO of Probolsky Research shares his take on California’s Senate, Governor, House and local races as well as the Propositions.

Pollster Adam Probolsky, CEO of Probolsky Research shares his take on California’s Senate, Governor, House and local races as well as the Propositions.

C&E: What is Probolsky Research?

Probolsky: We do public opinion research polling and focus groups.

C&E: Where are you surveying now?

Probolsky: At the moment, we are in California, Connecticut, North Carolina and Colorado. We do various states around the country.

C&E: What are you seeing in the polls in California’s Senate race between Republican candidate Carly Fiorina and Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer?

Probolsky: About two weeks ago we showed Fiorina down about five points. That has tightened a bit according to some polls. My understanding is that Boxer hits a wall at about 45 [percentage points] and can’t get beyond it and that Fiorina has gained on her.

California is a Democratic state with a 14 point margin of Democrats over Republicans. It takes a lot [to flip this Senate seat]. This is not middle America. California is not a place where there is a lot of ebb and flow and as dramatic an amount of angst and anger at D.C. and Sacramento for even one seat to go from Democrats to Republicans.

She [Fiorina] is down right now, their [campaign’s] internals are showing [the race] even, so she essentially has to win all or most of the “decline to say” and independent voters in California. The battle ground is in “decline to say voters,” that is the game with the Senate or governor or Congressional races that do not have any unique dynamics, like a scandal or an individual candidate flaw. In the 47th district, the race between [Republican congressional candidate] Van Tran and [Democratic Rep.] Loretta Sanchez is also a race between ethnic voters.

C&E: Have you seen any movement in the Governor’s race with the recent scandals from both camps or is that cake baked?

Probolsky: Two weeks ago I was much more comfortable with the prospect of Meg Whitman having a better shot then Fiorina taking the senate race. Now that perspective has shifted, and it is just the opposite. What happened was that Whitman dramatically outspent Brown up into the least couple weeks. Now, they are matching each other dollar for dollar. Whitman has been using her own money while Brown’s campaign is funded almost entirely by public employee money. But in a dollar for dollar race, the advantage goes to Brown in this Democratic state.

From what we found in our polls, the “maid-gate” scandal actually had a very limited impact. Two thirds said it made no difference to them. Look back two or three years ago – the number one issue in a lot of places was traffic. Now the issue is the economy. More people are concerned with economics. The “whore” issue (when audio with Jerry Brown’s advisor calling Mrs. Whitman a “whore” and Brown agreeing to use that), while we haven’t polled it, that is also incredibly trivial to voters as well.

C&E: What are the most competitive House races in California that you are seeing in your polls?

Probolsky: In the 47th district, the [Van] Tran campaign released an internal poll showing they were even, and they poled in both Vietnamese and Spanish. I think that [poll] is pretty accurate. In California, we have maybe one to three seats that could potentially go to Republicans. Where as in other stats there are dozens, here it is literally one to three.

C&E: What is the impact that the prop campaigns will have at the polls this year? Also, what is your impression of the race for possible gains at the Assembly and state Senate level?

In the state House you have got a very limited chance for Republican pick ups. You are talking a seat or two in the Assembly, maybe one seat in the Senate. Our districts are so partisan, so gerrymandered that they are overwhelmingly incumbent protected. It is very difficult to switch a seat in California

For the props, new numbers came out recently that look fairly reliable. The marijuana measure is going down, but our numbers show that whether it is this election or next marijuana will be legal in California. We asked “would you be more or less likely to vote for a candidate if they used marijuana recreationally?” A majority of voters were indifferent or supportive of that statement. This prop [Prop 19 to support the legalization of personal position of a small amount of marijuana] is poorly written, but at some point it will be legal here.

C&E: What are the most interesting dynamics from this season you are seeing in California?

Probolsky: In the 47th district with the Tran / Sanchez race, there are a couple unique dynamics. One is that Asian voters are fiercely loyal to Asian candidates, across party lines, gender and national origin. Asians are fiercely loyal to Asians. That yields a heavy advantage to Tran. They [Asian voters] show up in much larger numbers than Latinos do. They are a smaller group, but a major force.

C&E: What will you be most surprised to see on election night?

Probolsky: In California, we will have a surprise win or two just as we are expecting from other states. Obviously, some incumbents will be disappointed. There is a high likelihood that GOP will take the Attorney General spot in California. There may be one other statewide office. If there is more than two statewide offices held by Republicans come election night, then that will be surprising. If Governor or Senate flipped I think that would be surprising.

Adam Probolsky is chairman and CEO of Probolsky Research, LLC. He is a pollster with over fifteen years of experience. He has conducted research and provided strategic advice to hundreds of local, regional and state government agencies, political candidates and ballot propositions, as well as associations, educational institutions, media organizations, non-profits and Fortune 500 companies. Mr. Probolsky’s research and commentary have been featured on Fox News Channel and published in numerous publications including the Orange County Register, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Riverside Press Enterprise, Capitol Weekly, The Hill and National Review Online.  

Noah Rothman is the online editor at C&E. Email him at

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