By David Siders
Published: Sunday, Jul. 11, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman’s scant voting record is viewed poorly by more than half of likely voters, but many aren’t thrilled with Democratic rival Jerry Brown’s age, either.

In a wide-ranging measure of the candidate characteristics that matter most to voters, a report released today by the nonpartisan Field Poll depicts an electorate that favors both political and business experience as well as progressive or moderate views.

Of likely voters surveyed, 54 percent said they are less inclined to vote for a candidate for high office who hasn’t voted in many statewide elections, while 4 percent said they are more likely to. The difference – what Field calls the net negative effect – is 50 points.

Meanwhile, 37 percent of likely voters are less likely to vote for a candidate who is older than 70, according to the poll. Brown is 72.

Being an incumbent running for re-election is a turnoff for 23 percent of likely voters and a positive characteristic for only 9 percent, according to the poll.

And although 13 percent prefer candidates who’ve never held political office, 26 percent are less likely to vote for them.

Few of the poll’s respondents cared about a candidate’s gender, with more than 90 percent stating no preference. Eight percent were more likely to vote for women. Four percent said the same about men.

“The thing that struck me is gender is not a big deal,” poll Director Mark DiCamillo said. “Here’s a historic year where women are running at the top of the ticket – that’s not a big deal to voters.”

Those women include Whitman and both Senate candidates, incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and GOP challenger Carly Fiorina.

“What’s important,” DiCamillo said, “seems to be things like having experience.”

Of those polled, 42 percent were more likely to vote for someone who has experience working with legislative leaders. Almost as many, 41 percent, were more likely to vote for someone with many years of business experience.

This year’s top statewide contests are between former Gov. Brown and former eBay CEO Whitman, and between former Hewlett-Packard CEO Fiorina and incumbent Sen. Boxer.

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