With overwhelming support among younger voters and independents, Bernie Sanders has drawn within two percentage points of Hillary Clinton in California’s Democratic presidential primary race, according to the Field Poll released today, which found sharp demographic differences in the potential electorate.
Given the Field Poll’s margin of error of ±4.1 percentage points, the race is a virtual dead heat, with Clinton at 45% and Sanders at 43% — a considerable tightening since April when the Field Poll had it Clinton 47% to Sanders 41%.
“It’s all about turnout,” said Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo, noting the striking demographic differences between Clinton and Sanders backers. “Who votes really matters, It’s gonna be close.”
Age, Gender and Race. As has been true in other states, age is a huge factor. Sanders kills Clinton among younger voters, leading 75-15% among voters 18-29 and 60-33% among voters 30-39. But Clinton beats Sanders 49-40% among those 40-49, by 56-31% among voters 50-64 and by 56-38% among voters 65 or older. Sanders leads age brackets that comprise 31% of the vote while Clinton leads among voters who comprise 69% of the total vote.
Once again, gender is another powerful variable. Sanders leads among men 48-39% while Clinton is ahead among women 49-40% — almost mirror images. The good news for Clinton: women are expected to comprise 57% of the Democratic primary vote compared to 43% for men. Roughly speaking, women who remember when the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe vs Wade 43 years ago are overwhelmingly for Clinton, while those who grew up when abortion was legal, favor Sanders.
Race and ethnicity also matter. It’s a virtual tie among white voters, with Clinton at 44% and Sanders at 43%. Clinton holds a narrow 46-42% lead among Latinos but a huge 57-36% advantage among blacks, while Sanders leads 47-34% among Asians and others. Again, the demographics favor Clinton slightly: If the candidates split the 56% of voters who are white and Clinton carries Latinos and blacks, who comprise 35% of the vote, and Sanders takes Asians and others who make up 11% of the vote.
Will Independents Vote? Moreover, it makes a big difference whether Sanders is able to get his independent voters to the polls; while Clinton stomps him 49-40% among the 79% of voters who are registered Democrats, Sanders has a killer lead of 54-27% among the 21% of voters who have no party preference but who are permitted to vote in the Democratic primary if they request a Democratic ballot.
The final polling results from Field (and also from Marist College for NBC and the Wall Street Journal) reflect findings released last week by the Public Policy Institute of California – which gave Clinton a two-point lead — but are at odds with an internet YouGov survey for Hoover Institution that showed Clinton with a 13-point advantage.
The Field Poll, by landline and cell phone among 1,002 actual registered voters who have already voted or are likely to vote on June 7, including 571 likely voters in the Democratic primary and 351 likely Republican voters.
As Sanders and the Republicans have continued to demonize Clinton, her favorability has suffered and now stands at 64% favorable among likely Democratic primary voters and 30% unfavorable. Sanders favorability has remained strong at 76-17% favorable-to-unfavorable.
Clinton leads in Los Angeles County, the Central Velley and Sierras, while Sanders leads in other Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area and Central Coast.
If the vote were limited to the 23% of voters who have already sent in ballots by mail, Clinton would have won 47-38%. But the race is a dead heat among the 77% of voters who had not yet voted when the survey was done – 45% Sanders.
Both Clinton and Sanders murder Trump in simulated general election match-ups: Clinton 53-34% and Sanders 60-31%
The Field Poll was conducted May 26-31 and entailed interviews with 581 voters on cell phones and 421 on landline or other types of telephones. This is critical because increasingly voters do not have landlines or cannot be reached on them. Respondents were selected at random from the California roster of registered voters.