California Voter and Party Profiles
- The share of independent voters continues to increase.
The share of California voters who say they are independent (also known as "decline to state” or "no party preference”) continues to rise: it is now at 21.3% (3.7 million voters), up from 19.4% (3.1 million) in 2008, the last presidential election year. The California Secretary of State reports that as of May 2012 Democrats numbered 7.4 million (43.4%) while Republicans numbered 5.2 million (30.2%). Currently there are 17.2 million California voters—72.3% of eligible adults. Our surveys indicate that among those we consider most likely to vote, 44% are Democrats, 35% are Republicans, and 18% are independents.
- Party leanings unchanged for independent likely voters; partisans are ideologically divided.
Major party leanings among independent likely voters are unchanged since 2008. Four in 10 think of themselves as closer to the Democratic Party (43% in 2008, 41% today), 29% the Republican Party (27% in 2008), and 3 in 10 volunteer that they lean toward neither party (30% in 2008 and today). Just over half (54%) of Democratic likely voters describe themselves as liberal, while 72% of Republican likely voters describe themselves as conservative. Independent likely voters are more likely to describe themselves as middle-of-the-road (42%) than as liberal (26%) or conservative (32%). Ideological differences are manifested, for example, in state taxing and spending preferences: 71% of Democrats would prefer to pay higher taxes and have a state government that provides more services, while 75% of Republicans prefer lower taxes and fewer services; independent likely voters are evenly divided (48% higher taxes/more services, 48% lower taxes/fewer services).
- Likely voter party affiliation varies across major racial and ethnic groups.
Though 46% of the state’s population is non-Hispanic white and 32% is Latino, our surveys indicate that among those most likely to vote, 66% are white and only 16% are Latino. Asians (10%) and blacks (6%) comprise a smaller share of both California’s likely voters and the state’s population (14% Asian; 6% black). The racial/ethnic makeup of Democratic and Republican likely voters varies widely. Among Democrats, 56% are white, 22% are Latino, 10% are black, and 9% are Asian. Among Republicans, 82% are white, 8% are Latino, 7% are Asian, and 1% are black. Among independent likely voters, 56% are white, 15% are Latino, 19% are Asian, and 4% are black.
- Likely voter party profiles differ by gender, education, income, and age.
Men (58%) make up a larger share of independent likely voters than women (42%), while women (59%) make up a larger share of Democratic likely voters than men (41%). Republican likely voters are split between men (51%) and women (49%). Half (50%) of independents are college graduates, compared to fewer Democrats (41%) and Republicans (32%). Almost a third of Democratic likely voters (32%) have household incomes under $40,000, compared to 24% of independents and 22% of Republicans. Voters age 55 and older make up 48% of Republican and 45% of Democratic likely voters, compared to 35% of independents. Independents hold the highest share of likely voters age 18 to 34 (25%), compared to fewer Democrats (18%) and Republicans (13%).
- Democrats and Republicans maintain different geographic strongholds.
Nearly half of likely voters live in Los Angeles (25%) and the San Francisco Bay Area (21%); 18% live in Orange/San Diego Counties, 16% in the Central Valley, and 9% in the Inland Empire. Most Democrats live in Los Angeles (30%) and the San Francisco Bay Area (26%), while nearly half of Republican likely voters reside in the Central Valley (25%) and Orange/San Diego Counties (21%); another 19% of Republicans live in Los Angeles. Among independent likely voters, 25% reside in the San Francisco Bay Area, 24% in Los Angeles and 20% in Orange/San Diego Counties, 12% in the Central Valley, and 9% in the Inland Empire.
Note: "Likely voters" are registered voters meeting criteria on interest in politics, attention to issues, voting behavior, and intention to vote. For a full description of this criteria, visit http://www.ppic.org/content/other/SurveyMethodology.pdf.
Sources: Eight PPIC Statewide Surveys, September 2011 to July 2012, including 7, 622 likely voters. California Secretary of State, Report of Registration, May 2008, May 2012. 2010 U.S. Census.