Race and Voting in California
- California is a majority-minority state, but minority turnout continues to lag.
According to US Census estimates, California—which became the first large majority-minority state after the 2000 Census—has a Latino plurality. Latinos account for 39% of the state’s total population, while non-Hispanic whites account for 38%. Asian Americans (14%) and African Americans (6%) comprise much smaller shares of California’s population. Non-Hispanic whites make up 43% of California’s adult population, but according to our surveys, they make up 60% of the state’s likely voters. In contrast, Latinos represent 34% of the state’s adult population, but account for only 18% of those most likely to vote. Asian Americans comprise 15% of the adult population and 12% of likely voters. The share of African American likely voters matches their representation in the adult population (6%). Our surveys over the past year indicate that fewer than half of African American (48%), Asian American (48%), and Latino (42%) adult citizens are likely to vote, compared to 64% of white adult citizens.
- Most African American and Latino likely voters are Democrats.
An overwhelming majority of African American likely voters (82%) and a solid majority of Latino likely voters (62%) are registered as Democrats. Among Asian American likely voters, a plurality (45%) are registered as Democrats, 24% are registered as Republicans, and 30% as independents, also known as "decline to state” or "no party preference” voters. Party registration of white likely voters is more evenly divided, with 38% registered as Democrats, 39% as Republicans, and 19% as independents.
- Within racial/ethnic groups, likely voters are ideologically divided.
Latino voters are about as likely to identify themselves as politically liberal (34%) as they are to call themselves middle-of-the-road (30%) or conservative (36%). Similarly, white likely voters are about as likely to identify as liberal (34%) as they are to identify as conservative (37%, 28% middle-of-the-road). African American and Asian American likely voters are slightly more likely to be ideologically liberal (41% each) than conservative (33% African Americans, 30% Asian Americans).
- Among likely voters, Asian Americans and Latinos tend to be young; Latinos and African Americans tend to be less educated and less affluent.
About half of Asian American (52%) and Latino (49%) likely voters are under age 45, compared to fewer African American (31%) and white (26%) likely voters. Indeed, among likely voters, three in ten Asian Americans and Latinos are under age 35, compared to only 17% of African Americans and 12% of whites. Fewer than a third of Latino (24%) and African American (30%) likely voters are college graduates, compared to 42% of white and 69% of Asian American likely voters. Pluralities of Latino (46%) and African American (44%) likely voters have household incomes of less than $40,000, while about a quarter (25% Latinos, 27% African Americans) earn $80,000 or more. In contrast, nearly half of white (49%) and a majority of Asian American (59%) likely voters earn $80,000 or more.
- Majorities of likely voters across racial/ethnic groups view immigrants as a benefit.
Nearly all African American (97%) and white (94%) likely voters are native-born US citizens, compared to 66% of Latino likely voters; Asian American likely voters are more likely to be naturalized rather than native-born citizens (56% to 44%). When it comes to perceptions of immigrants, solid majorities of Latino (74%), Asian American (71%), and African American (62%) likely voters say immigrants are a benefit to California. White likely voters are more evenly divided (52% benefit, 41% burden). Regarding undocumented immigrants living in the United States, strong majorities across racial/ethnic groups think there should be a way for them to stay legally if certain requirements are met (86% African Americans, 83% Latinos, 79% Asian Americans, 74% whites).
SOURCE: Seven PPIC Statewide Surveys from September 2015 to July 2016, including 7,306 likely voters. 2000 US Census, 2012 American Community Survey. US Census Bureau, Population Estimates Program (PEP).