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August 2013
California's Likely Voters
  • Voter registration has grown since 2009, but it is down for both major parties.
    As of February 2013, 18.1 million of California’s 23.9 million eligible adults are registered to vote. Since February 2009 (the last year before a mid-term election), the percent of eligible adults who are registered has grown from 74.4% to 75.7%. The share of voters registered with the major parties has decreased from 44.5% to 43.9% for the Democratic Party and from 31.1% to 28.9% for the Republican Party. The percentage of voters without a party preference increased from 20% to 20.9%, and registration with other parties increased from 4.3% to 6.3%.
  • Likely voters, infrequent voters, and unregistered adults lean Democratic and are ideologically mixed.
    Among likely voters taking part in our surveys, 45% are Democrats, 32% are Republicans, 19% are independents (also known as decline-to-state or no party preference), and 5% are registered with other parties. Among independent likely voters, 41% lean toward the Democratic Party, 29% lean toward the Republican Party, and 30% volunteer they lean toward neither party or are unsure. Of the state’s infrequent voters, 41% lean toward the Democratic Party, 27% lean toward the Republican Party, and 32% lean toward neither party or are unsure. More than half of unregistered adults lean toward the Democratic Party (54%), 19% lean toward the Republican Party, and 27% lean toward neither major party or are unsure. Ideologically, 38% of likely voters say they are conservative, 33% are liberal, and 29% are middle-of-the-road. Of the state’s infrequent voters, 35% say they are conservative, 31% are liberal, and 35% are middle-of the-road. Among those not registered to vote, 36% are conservative, 33% are liberal, and 31% are middle-of-the-road.
  • Likely voters continue to be disproportionately white.
    Whites comprise 44% of California’s adult population but 62% of likely voters. In contrast, Latinos make up 33% of the adult population but only 17% of likely voters. Eleven percent of likely voters are Asian (14% of adult population), 7% are black (6% of adults), and 3% are another race or multiracial (3% of adults). Among infrequent voters, 40% are white. Among those not registered to vote, 62% are Latinos; fewer are white (20%), Asian (15%), or black (2%).
  • The regional distribution of likely voters mirrors that of the state’s adult population distribution.
    Los Angeles County has 27% of the state’s overall adult population, and 24% of the state’s likely voters. Similarly, 22% of California’s likely voters and 20% of the overall adult population live in the San Francisco Bay Area; 19% and 17% live in Orange/San Diego Counties; 16% and 17% live in the Central Valley; and 10% and 11% live in the Inland Empire. The highest shares of infrequent voters (30%) and unregistered adults (29%) live in Los Angeles.
  • Likely voters are older, more educated, more affluent; they are homeowners, and born in the U.S.
    Forty-two percent of likely voters in California are 55 years or older, though this age group makes up only 30% of the state’s adult population. Only 21% of likely voters are age 18 to 34, even though this age group constitutes 33% of the state’s adult population. The 35-to-54 age group is proportionally represented (37% of likely voters, 38% of adults). Among likely voters, 40% are college graduates and 41% have some college education; only 19% have not attended college. Californians with household incomes of $80,000 or more make up 40% of likely voters, compared to 12% of unregistered adults. In contrast, 72% of unregistered adults earn less than $40,000. Among likely voters, 71% are homeowners and 83% U.S.-born; among unregistered adults, just 34% are homeowners and 32% are U.S.-born. Likely voters are almost as likely to be men (49%) as women (51%).


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.

Sources: Nine PPIC Statewide Surveys, September 2012 to July 2013, including 11,347 likely voters, 2,955 infrequent voters, and 2,992 unregistered adults. California Secretary of State, Report of Registration, February 2013. U.S. Census, 2009–11 American Community Survey.