California Voter and Party Profiles
- Independent registration has increased; four in ten likely voters are Democrats.
California’s 17.7 million registered voters constitute 72.7% of eligible adults, which is about the same as in 2011 (72.8%), the last year preceding a presidential election. The share of registered voters who are Democrats is down slightly from 2011 (44.0% 2011, 43.2% 2015), while the share of Republicans is down somewhat more (30.9% 2011, 28.0% 2015). At the same time, the share of voters who say they are independent (also known as "decline to state” or "no party preference”) has increased; it is now 23.6%, up from 20.4% in 2011. Our surveys indicate that among those we consider most likely to vote, 43% are Democrats, 32% are Republicans, and 20% are independents.
- Independent likely voters are split between Democrats and Republicans.
In our surveys over the past year, independent likely voters were about equally likely to lean Democratic (37%) or Republican (34%); 29% did not lean toward either major party. This marks a shift from 2011, when 35% did not lean toward either party, while 36% leaned toward the Democrats and 29% leaned Republican. Independent likely voters are more likely to be moderate (39%) than conservative (33%) or liberal (28%).
- Republicans are more ideologically cohesive than Democrats.
More than two-thirds (69%) of Republican likely voters say they are conservative, while slightly more than half (53%) of Democratic likely voters describe themselves as liberal. One area in which ideological divisions are most evident is taxation and spending: when asked about the role of government, 65% of Democrats say they would prefer to pay higher taxes and have a state government that provides more services, while 77% of Republicans prefer lower taxes and fewer services; independents have a slight preference for lower taxes and fewer services (50% to 43%).
- Likely voters are disproportionately white; party affiliation varies across racial and ethnic groups.
Whites make up 43% of California’s adult population, but 60% of those we identified as likely to vote over the past year are white. In contrast, Latinos make up 34% of the state’s adult population but only 18% of likely voters. The shares of Asian (12%) and black (6%) likely voters are roughly proportionate to their shares of the state’s adult population—15% Asian and 6% black. About half (48%) of Democratic likely voters are white; 26% are Latino, 13% are Asian, and 10% are black. An overwhelming majority (80%) of Republican likely voters are white; relatively few are Latino (8%), Asian (8%), or black (1%). Among independents, 55% are white, 19% are Asian, 16% are Latino, and 5% are black.
- Other demographic characteristics of likely voters also vary across parties.
Democratic likely voters are more likely to be women (57%) than men (43%), while independents are more likely to be men (56%) than women (44%). Republicans are closely divided (50% men, 50% women). Half of independents (50%) are college graduates, compared to fewer Republicans (39%) and Democrats (38%). About four in 10 Democrats (39%) have household incomes under $40,000, compared to three in 10 independents (29%) and two in 10 Republicans (22%). Independents are more likely to be young adults (18 to 34, 24%) than are Democrats (17%) or Republicans (11%), while Republicans are more likely to be age 55 and older (55%) than are Democrats (49%) or independents (36%).
- Democrats and Republicans tend to live in different parts of the state.
The regional distribution of likely voters mirrors that of the state’s overall adult population (27% Los Angeles, 21% San Francisco Bay Area, 17% Orange/San Diego, 17% Central Valley,10% Inland Empire, 9% other counties). Most Democrats live in Los Angeles County (33%) or the San Francisco Bay Area (25%), while most Republicans live in the Central Valley (22%), Orange and San Diego Counties (22%), or Los Angeles County (20%). Independents are most likely to live in Los Angeles County (25%) or the San Francisco Bay Area (24%).
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 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 13,635 adults and 8,206 likely voters. California Secretary of State, Report of Registration, February 2015, October 2014, and October 2012. U.S. Census, 2011–13 American Community Survey.