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USC Poll: Sherman over Berman in June primary, both to advance to November general election

by Jonah Lowenfeld

June 3, 2012 | 2:07 am

Rep. Brad Sherman (D - Sherman Oaks) will finish first in the June 5 primary election, a new online survey has found. Rep. Howard Berman (D - Van Nuys), who, as a result of redistricting, is also running for reelection in the hotly contested 30th congressional district, is expected to come in second.

Given a choice between all seven candidates who will appear on the primary ballot, 32 percent of voters in the new West San Fernando Valley district chose Sherman, while 24 percent said they had or would be voting for Berman. If the survey turns out to be accurate, that would set up a second round for the two veteran Democratic Congressmen.

Under a new California law, the top two vote-getters in the primary will advance to a runoff in November.

The online survey, conducted by polling firms M4 Strategies and Tulchin Research for the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, asked 329 likely registered Primary Election voters in the district a series of questions in an online format.

Republican candidate Mark Reed came in third in the poll with 10 percent of voters saying they would or had voted for him. Trailing Reed were Republican Navraj Singh (4.3 percent), Green Party candidate Michael Powelson (3.5 percent), Republican Susan Shelley (1.9 percent) and Democrat Vince Gilmore (1.5 percent).

Twenty-three percent of voters said they were undecided.

Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife Online Survey and director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, said that the high number of undecided voters could be a result of the poll’s being conducted online.

“On an online survey, respondents are much more likely to say, ‘I don’t know,’ or ‘No opinion,’”Schnur said.

Other than that one quirk, Schnur said that the survey had been experimenting with online polling since the beginning of the year, and its results so far have shown that online poll results should be considered to be as reliable as traditional phone surveys.

The results were announced in a release early this morning. Here are the three meatiest paragraphs:

Schnur pointed out that both candidates performed best among their current constituents, but that Sherman’s current district represents a larger portion of the new district than Berman’s. He also noted that Sherman supporters were more likely to prioritize taxes, infrastructure and immigration as the most important issues in their decision, while Berman voters ranked healthcare and the candidate’s experience as their top concerns. Sherman’s backers were heavily Latino and Catholic, while Berman ran much stronger among Jewish voters, especially Reform Jews.

“Both candidates run best on their home turf among voters who know them best,” Schnur said. “They are going to spend the next several months fighting over voters who supported neither one of them in the primary and attempting to discourage their opponent’s supporters from turning out.”

“Ironically, the battle between these two Democratic stalwarts may be decided by Republican voters.”

The poll, which was conducted between May 29 to 31, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/- 5.4 percent, also makes use of some online tools that wouldn’t be available to pollsters working over the phone. In an interview on Friday, Schnur told me that online polls allow pollsters not just to ask more questions, but also to show voters videos of advertisements to then gauge their reactions.

This poll showed voters ads for Sherman and Berman and then gauged their persuasiveness. Of the two ads shown, the Sherman campaign ad did better.

But in an interesting move, the pro-Berman ad shown to voters was not to one of the ads created by the Berman campaign itself.

The surveyed voters watched one of the ads created and paid for by the Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman, the only pro-Berman Super-PAC still active in this race. Those ads have been called “amateurish” by some.

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As a result of California’s 2011 redistricting, two Jewish Democratic incumbent congressmen, Howard Berman (D - Valley Village) and Brad Sherman (D - Sherman Oaks), have both...

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