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California’s 4.5 Million Trump Voters

David Kordus, Dean Bonner January 5, 2017

In the November election, California voters passed several ballot initiatives acting on liberal priorities, and votes for Hillary Clinton in the state exceeded votes for Donald Trump by a two-to-one margin. Nevertheless, 4.5 million Californians voted for Donald Trump—7% of his total support across the country. California’s Trump voters stand apart from other voters—both those who supported past Republican presidential nominees and Clinton supporters—in important ways. But many Trump voters align with California’s Democratic majority on issues of taxation and undocumented immigrants.

California Trump voters’ low level of trust in the federal government is one of the major ways that they differ from other voters. The October PPIC Statewide Survey found that 81% of Trump voters say the federal government is run by a few big interests, wastes a lot of taxpayer money, and only does what is right sometimes (or never), compared to only 24% of Clinton voters. The large gap on these questions between Trump and Clinton voters in 2016 stands in sharp contrast to 2008, when McCain and Obama voters were about equally likely to express distrust (55% and 57%, respectively).

Yet there are some areas of overlap between Trump and Clinton voters. In California’s US Senate race between two Democrats, PPIC surveys indicate that about half of Trump voters decided not to participate. Of those who indicated they would vote, though, Trump voters were about evenly split between Kamala Harris—preferred by most Clinton voters (58%)—and Loretta Sanchez. In October, we found a noteworthy 22% of Trump voters saying they would vote for Harris, who was ultimately the winner of the seat.

Another winner in November was Proposition 55, which extended a tax on high incomes in California. While Clinton voters were far more likely than Trump voters (75% to 24%) to say they favored the tax extension, a quarter of Trump voters said they would vote yes. It’s likely that many of them contributed to the success of the measure, which passed with 63% support.

Immigration is another policy area with some notable overlap in opinions between Trump and Clinton supporters. Although Trump voters were far more likely than Clinton voters to support building a wall along the border with Mexico (82% to 7%), a majority of Trump voters (52%) agreed with the 95% of Clinton voters who said undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country if certain requirements are met. As California policymakers consider potential responses to a change in federal immigration policy, it will be interesting to see how Trump’s voters feel about new federal and state action.

Though California remains a Democratic-majority state, millions of Californians voted for the president-elect in November. While there are large differences in opinion between them and Clinton supporters, neither group is monolithic, and our survey findings suggest some potential areas of cooperation between them.

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