Who May Win in California?

Friday, April 08, 2016 Written by 
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How are California voters likely to vote in the presidential race?


Although the 2016 presidential election is still a long way off, 2016 polls for possible match-ups are already being taken. 


If California voters decided the next president and the election were held today, Hillary Clinton would be the winner according to research by USC and the LA Times released last week.  Data shows the Democratic frontrunner would beat GOP hopefuls Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. John Kasich and Donald Trump by significant margins.  


In a Clinton vs. Cruz match-up, Clinton would get 59% of votes, compared to 31% for Cruz.  Although currently in third place in the national race, Kasich would get the highest number of votes among all GOP candidates in a California election, with 35% against Clinton’s 54%.  Trump would get the least amount of California votes—just 28% compared to Clinton’s 59% .  The percentage of votes not accounted for indicate undecided voters. 


There was no clear data available on what a match-up might look like between Sen. Bernie Sanders and GOP candidates.  In an election year, however, anything is possible.


According to a new USC Dornsife/LA Times poll, Clinton’s lead against Sanders has narrowed in recent months among registered Democrats and likely Democratic voters in California, with 45 percent now backing Clinton and 37 percent supporting Sanders.  Last September, the same poll showed Clinton with a more substantial lead, with 42 percent supporting her and 26 percent backing Sanders. The 16 percentage-point lead was similar in November when a USC Dornsife/LA Times Poll by Survey Monkey with different methodology showed that 48 percent supported Clinton and 32 percent were behind Sanders.


In the latest poll, 51 percent of Sanders’ supporters say that they expect Clinton will ultimately prevail in November. Seventy-seven percent of them say they would vote for Clinton in a general election match-up against Donald Trump, though nearly half – 45 percent – would do so reluctantly, and 15 percent would refuse to vote for her at all.


“Hillary Clinton’s biggest challenge won’t be persuading Sanders supporters to support her in the general election, but to motivate them to turn out for her,” said Dan Schnur, director of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. “She doesn’t have to get them to fall in love with her, but to make them fear the prospect of a Trump candidacy enough to vote.”


Clinton has an advantage among Latino voters in California, with 52 percent of Democratic Latino voters saying they would vote for her, compared with 37 percent for Sanders. However, Sanders maintains a strong following of young voters, with 71 percent of those aged 18-29 stating their support for him in the primary.


While Clinton holds the lead among registered Democrats, with 49 percent of their support, Sanders draws much of his support – 44 percent – from voters with no party preference. Clinton also garnered support from 71 percent of those looking for a candidate with the “right experience” to be president, while Sanders won the support of 66 percent of Democratic voters who prefer a candidate “not beholden to special interests.”


Both Clinton and Sanders have generally positive favorability ratings among Californians – 52 percent and 57 percent respectively. When broken down by candidate, 67 percent of Clinton supporters have a favorable impression of Sanders, while 58 percent of Sanders supporters have a positive impression of Clinton.


The latest USC/Dornsife Los Angeles Times Poll, the largest statewide survey of registered voters, was conducted March 16-23, and includes a significant oversample of Latino voters as well as one of the most robust cell phone samples in the state. The full sample of 1,500 voters has a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.  


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