California's Likely Voters
- Voter registration is up since the last presidential election; the share of Republicans is down.
As of May 21, voter registration is at 72.3%, with 17.2 million of the 23.7 million eligible adults registered to vote, up from 70% in 2008 (the last presidential election year). The share of Democrats today is similar to 2008 (43.4% in 2012, 43.8% in 2008), while the share of Republicans has dipped (32.5% in 2008, 30.2% in 2012) and the share of independents (also known as "decline to state” or "no party preference”) has grown slightly (19.4% to 21.3%). The share of voters registered with other parties is 5.1% (4.3% in 2008).
- Likely voters are ideologically mixed but tend to be conservative; independents lean Democratic.
In our surveys, 44% of Californians we consider likely to vote are Democrats, 35% are Republicans, 18% are independents, and 3% are registered with other parties. The share of Republican likely voters is slightly higher than the share of Republican registered voters (35% to 30%). Ideologically, 39% of likely voters consider themselves conservative, 32% liberal, and 28% middle-of-the-road. Among the state’s infrequent voters, 30% identify as conservative, 34% middle-of-the road, and 36% as liberal. Among Californians not registered to vote, 35% say they are politically conservative, 33% middle-of-the-road, and 31% liberal. Forty-one percent of independent likely voters lean toward the Democratic Party, compared to 29% who lean toward the Republican Party.
- Likely voters are disproportionately white.
Whites comprise less than half of California’s adult population (46%) but two-thirds of the state’s likely voters (66%). In contrast, Latinos make up a third of the state’s adult population (32%) but only 16% of its likely voter share. The share of likely voters who are white is down 4 points since 2008, while the Latino share is similar (15% in 2008, 16% today). Only 23% of unregistered voters are white, while 59% are Latino. Asians account for 14% of the state’s adult population and 10% of likely voters. Blacks represent 6% of California’s population and 6% of likely voters.
- Likely voters are proportionately represented in the state’s geographic regions.
The regional distribution of likely voters matches the state’s population distribution: Los Angeles (27% of adults, 25% of likely voters), the San Francisco Bay Area (20% of adults, 21% of likely voters), the Central Valley (17% of adults and 16% of likely voters), Orange/San Diego Counties (17% of adults, 18% likely voters), and the Inland Empire (11% of adults, 9% of likely voters). The share of unregistered adults in the Los Angeles area (30%) is slightly higher than the region’s share of the state’s population (27%).
- Likely voters are older, more educated, and more affluent; they are homeowners and born in the U.S.
Californians 55 years and older make up 29% of the state’s population but constitute a much larger share of likely voters (44%). Since 2008, the share of older likely voters has increased 3 points. The 35-to-54 age group is proportionately represented (39% of adults, 38% of likely voters). Young adults in the 18-to-34 age group represent the smallest share of likely voters (18%) though they make up a third (33%) of the state’s adult population. Only 15% of unregistered adults are 55 years and older, compared to 44% of young adults and 40% in the middle-age group. Among likely voters, eight in 10 (81%) are college educated or have completed some college, compared to 32% of unregistered adults. Those with household incomes of $80,000 or more constitute 42% of likely voters but just 13% of unregistered adults. And likely voters are far more likely than unregistered adults to be homeowners (75% vs. 37%) and citizens (83% vs. 35%).
Note:"Likely voters” are registered voters meeting criteria on interest in politics, attention to issues, voting behavior, and intention to vote (for full description of this criteria visit http://www.ppic.org/content/other/SurveyMethodology.pdf); "infrequent voters” are registered voters who do not meet these criteria.
Sources: Eight PPIC Statewide Surveys, September 2011 to July 2012, including 7,622 likely voters, 3,589 infrequent voters, and 5,630 unregistered adults. California Secretary of State, Report of Registration, May 2008 and May 2012. 2007–09 American Community Survey.