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Poll Finds Bono Leads Republicans for Senate Seat

May 24, 1997|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — If Republicans held their primary today to choose a candidate for the U.S. Senate, the winner would be Rep. Sonny Bono (R-Palm Springs), according to a new Field Poll.

The current holder of the seat, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, remains ahead of all her likely Republican challengers, the poll indicates. Boxer also has a higher approval rating than any of her challengers for the 1998 election.

Under Proposition 198, approved by California voters last fall, the June 1998 primary will be open, meaning all candidates of all parties are listed on the same ballot. The leading vote-getter from each party then goes on to the general election in November.

In an open primary, Boxer would receive 34% of the vote, the Field Poll showed, with Bono, the leading Republican candidate, getting 17%. Next in line would be state Treasurer Matt Fong, a Republican, with 14%. The other potential candidates were in single digits, but the poll showed 27% undecided.

The open-primary law has been challenged in court, so there is a possibility that the state may continue to hold a traditional "closed" primary, in which only voters who are registered as members of a party are allowed to choose that party's candidates. In a closed primary, Bono would lead Fong 29%-20%. If Bono, who has not said if he will run, is not in the race, Fong leads his closest Republican challenger, San Diego Mayor Susan Golding, 27%-14%.

Boxer would easily win a closed Democratic primary, the poll found.

Although Bono leads Republicans in a primary, he doesn't fair as well against Boxer. Fong was the Democratic senator's closest challenger in a general election trial heat. Boxer leads that theoretical contest 43%-37%. She leads Bono by 10 percentage points, Golding by 11 points and businessman Darrell Issa by 21 points.

One reason Boxer is the favorite may be that voters are unfamiliar with her potential opponents.

The poll found that 82% of respondents knew of Boxer and that 46% of those polled gave her a favorable rating. Bono had the highest recognition factor among the Republican candidates, with 55%, and a 33% favorable rating. Fong had a higher favorable rating, 38%, but slightly fewer voters, 51%, had an opinion about him.

The results are based on a survey conducted May 9-18 among a representative statewide sample of 724 registered voters. The margin of sampling error was 3.7 percentage points.

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