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Seven Months Before Super Tuesday California Poll Sees A Toss-Up

July 30, 2019 by Dan McCue
Presidential Candidate Senator Kamala Harris speaks at the General Session on day 2 of the 2019 California State Democratic Party Convention at Moscone Center on Saturday, June 1, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times/TNS)

WASHINGTON – Seven months from Super Tuesday, the race to win the California primary and presumably, a lock to be the Democratic presidential nominee, is a toss-up, according to new poll released by the Public Policy Institute of California.

California is one of 14 states that will cast primary votes on March 3, 2020. With 495 delegates at stake, it is considered one of the two biggest prizes to win that day, the other being Texas, which will have 155 delegates in play.

The other states voting the same day are Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and Virginia. And there will also be a Democrats Abroad primary, accounting for 13 delegates.

When all is said and done, Super Tuesday will account for about 40% of the total delegate allocation during the primary season.

As the home state candidate, Senator Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has long been considered the favorite to win in California; not only has she been the state’s junior senator since 2017, but she was also the state attorney general, and prior to that, San Francisco district attorney.

The poll released Tuesday by the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan research institution, does indeed have Harris ahead, but at 19% her lead over the next most supported contender, Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who stands at 15%, is well within the poll’s ±5.1% margin of error.

And the  next two candidates in the poll, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., 12%, and former Vice President Joe Biden, 11%, aren’t far outside the margin of error, and 25 percent of respondents said they have no idea who they might support.

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who garnered the support of 5% of respondents, is the only other candidate supported by at least 5 percent.

The numbers change dramatically when one focuses on voters age 18 to 44, and not in Harris’s favor. This subset of voters gives Sanders, at 21%, a statistically insignificant edge over Warren, who comes in at 19%.

Harris is supported by just 13% of this group, while Biden’s support plummets to 4% and Buttigieg’s to 1%.

Environment Could Be Key to California Contest

Among all likely voters, and especially among Democrats, the environment will be an important issue in next year’s election.

Eight in ten likely voters say candidates’ positions on the environment are important (44% very; 36% somewhat) in determining their vote for president, with Democrats (64%) far more likely than independents (34%) and Republicans (20%) to say very important.

Californians give federal policymakers low marks for their overall performance and for their handling of environmental issues in particular.

About one-third of adults (32%), and slightly more likely voters (38%), approve of how Donald Trump is handling his job as president, with 62 percent of adults and 60 percent of likely voters disapproving.

 Approval is somewhat lower for how the president is handling environmental issues: 26 percent of adults and 31 percent of likely voters approve, while 66 percent of adults and 65 percent of likely voters disapprove.

Overall approval ratings are lower for Congress, with 25 percent of adults and 17 percent of likely voters approving. A strong majority of likely voters (79%) disapprove of how Congress is handling its job. 

On environmental issues, 25 percent of adults and 17 percent of likely voters approve of how Congress is doing, while a solid majority (76%) disapprove.

“With high disapproval ratings for President Trump and Congress, many California likely voters say that environmental positions are very important in choosing a presidential candidate,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.

Most Support State’s Efforts to Address Global Warming

At a time when California’s political leaders have pursued environmental policies that are at odds with those of the federal government, a solid majority of likely voters (61%) favor the California state government creating its own policies to address global warming.

Most Californians approve of specific policy proposals to address climate change. A strong majority of likely voters (68%) support encouraging local governments to change land use and transportation planning to reduce reliance on driving.

An overwhelming majority ( 76%) favor requiring automakers to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new cars. Notably, four major auto manufacturers and the state announced on July 25 that they had reached an agreement on higher fuel-efficiency standards for new cars, countering efforts by the Trump administration to restrict the state’s ability to set such standards.

When asked about the potential impacts of state climate change policies, nearly half of Californians (45%) say these policies would create more jobs for people around the state.

One in five say these policies would lead to fewer jobs (19%) or wouldn’t affect the number of jobs (21%). 

Regarding other economic impacts, most Californians (60%) expect gasoline prices to increase due to state action on climate change. Also, half of adults (51%) and likely voters (50%) say they would be willing to pay more for electricity generated by renewable sources.

Findings in the report are based on a survey of 1,706 California adult residents, including 1,194 interviewed on cell phones and 512 interviewed on landline telephones. Interviews took place from July 14–23, 2019. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, according to respondents’ preferences.

The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.4 percent for all adults, ±5.1% for the 766 adults asked question 41 (regarding the Democratic primary, and ±4.4 percent for the 1,085 likely voters.

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