California's Likely Voters
- Seven in ten are registered to vote; independent registration continues to increase.
As of February 2015, 17.7 million of California’s 24.4 million eligible adults were registered to vote. At 72.7% of eligible adults, that is very similar to the rate of registration in 2011 (72.8%), the last year preceding a presidential election. The share of registered voters who are Democrats (43.2%) is down slightly from 2011 (44.0%), and the share of Republicans (28.0%) has also declined since 2011 (30.9%). At the same time, the share of voters who say they are independent (also known as "decline to state” or "no party preference”) has been increasing; it is now 23.6%, up from 20.4% in 2011.
- Voters and unregistered adults lean Democratic and are ideologically mixed.
Among likely voters in our surveys over the past year, 43% are Democrats, 32% are Republicans, 20% are independents, and 5% are registered with other parties. Of those we consider infrequent voters, 46% are Democrats, 29% are independents, 21% are Republicans, and 4% are registered with other parties. Among independent likely voters, 37% lean toward the Democratic Party, compared to 34% who lean toward the Republican Party and 29% who volunteer that they lean toward neither major party or are unsure. Among unregistered adults, 49% lean toward the Democratic Party and 22% toward the Republican Party; 29% lean toward neither party or are unsure. Ideologically, 33% of likely voters are politically liberal, 29% are moderate, and 39% are conservative. Identical shares of infrequent voters consider themselves conservative or liberal (34% each), and 32% consider themselves moderate. Unregistered adults are also ideologically mixed: 37% are conservative, 31% are liberal, and 31% are moderate.
- Likely voters are disproportionately white.
With ten months to go until the June 2016 primary election, whites make up only 43% of California’s adult population but 60% of the state’s likely voters. In contrast, Latinos comprise 34% of the adult population but just 18% of likely voters. Asians make up 14% of the population and 12% of likely voters, while 6% of both the population and likely voters are black. "Other race” and multiracial adults make up 3% of the population and 4% of likely voters. Four in 10 (39%) infrequent voters are white, and 30% are Latino. Six in 10 unregistered adults are Latino; fewer are white (22%), Asian (13%), or black (3%).
- The regional distribution of likely voters echoes that of the state’s adult population.
The share of likely voters in each region mirrors the region’s share of the state’s overall adult population: Los Angeles County (27% of adults, 27% of likely voters), the San Francisco Bay Area (20% of adults, 21% of likely voters), Orange/San Diego Counties (17% of adults, 17% of likely voters), the Central Valley (17% of adults, 17% of likely voters), and the Inland Empire (11% of adults, 10% of likely voters). The largest shares of infrequent voters (28%) and unregistered adults (26%) live in Los Angeles County.
- Likely voters are older, more educated, more affluent; they are homeowners and were born in the US.
Californians age 55 and older make up 31% of the state’s adult population but constitute 48% of likely voters. Young adults (18 to 34) make up 32% of the population but only 17% of likely voters, while adults ages 35 to 54 are proportionally represented. Four in 10 likely voters have some college education and 42% are college graduates; 18% have no college education. Forty percent of likely voters have annual household incomes of $80,000 or more, while 28% earn $40,000 to under $80,000 and 32% earn $40,000 or less. The vast majority of likely voters (71%) are homeowners, while three in 10 (29%) are renters. In contrast, 70% of unregistered adults and 62% of infrequent voters are renters. Eighty-three percent of likely voters were born in the US (17% are immigrants). Women (51%) and men (49%) make up similar shares of the likely voters in California.
NOTE: "Likely voters" are registered voters meeting criteria on interest in politics, attention to issues, voting behavior, and intention to vote; "infrequent voters" are registered voters who do not meet these criteria. For full description of this criteria and regional definitions, visit www.ppic.org/content/other/SurveyMethodology.pdf. For race and ethnicity, results are presented for non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic Asians, non-Hispanic blacks, and for non-Hispanic other race and multiracial adults.
SOURCES: Eight PPIC Statewide Surveys from September 2014 to July 2015, including 8,206 likely voters, 2,717 infrequent voters, and 2,582 unregistered adults. California Secretary of State, Report of Registration, February 2015. U.S. Census, 2011–13 American Community Survey.