Just the FACTS
California’s Likely Voters
- Seven in ten are registered to vote; independent registration continues to increase.
As of May 2016, 17.9 million of California’s 24.8 million eligible adults were registered to vote, which equates to a registration rate of 72.3%. This rate is identical to May 2012 and slightly higher than the rate before the presidential primary in February 2008 (68.5%). However, the share of eligible adults who are registered to vote is likely to increase as we have seen in the lead-up to elections in 2012 (76.7% in October) and 2008 (74.6% in October), the last presidential contest without an incumbent. The share of registered voters who are Democrats (44.8%) is up from 2012 (43.7%), while the share of Republicans (27.3%) is down (from 29.4%). At the same time, the share of voters who say they are independent (also known as “decline to state” or “no party preference”) has been increasing: it is now 23.3%, up from 20.9% in 2012.
- Likely voters and unregistered adults lean Democratic and are ideologically mixed.
Among likely voters in our surveys over the past year, 45% are Democrats, 31% are Republicans, 20% are independents, and 4% are registered with other parties. Of those we consider infrequent voters, 41% are Democrats, 34% are independents, 21% are Republicans, and 5% are registered with other parties. Among independent likely voters, 42% lean toward the Democratic Party, compared to 32% who lean toward the Republican Party and 26% who volunteer that they lean toward neither major party or are unsure. Among unregistered adults, 51% lean toward the Democratic Party and 22% toward the Republican Party; 27% lean toward neither party or are unsure. Ideologically, 35% of likely voters are politically liberal, 29% are moderate, and 36% are conservative. Among infrequent voters 35% consider themselves liberal, 32% consider themselves moderate, and 32% consider themselves conservative. Unregistered adults are also ideologically mixed: 36% are conservative, 33% are liberal, and 31% are moderate.
- Likely voters are disproportionately white.
Whites make up only 43% of California’s adult population but 60% of the state’s likely voters. In contrast, Latinos comprise 34% of the adult population but just 18% of likely voters. Asian Americans make up 15% of the population and 12% of likely voters, while 6% of both the population and likely voters are African American. “Other race” and multiracial adults make up 3% of the population and 4% of likely voters. Four in ten (40%) infrequent voters are white, and 30% are Latino. Nearly six in ten unregistered adults are Latino (57%); fewer are white (22%), Asian American (17%), or African American (2%).
- Likely voters are older, more educated, more affluent; they are homeowners and were born in the US.
Californians age 55 and older make up 31% of the state’s adult population but constitute 47% of likely voters. Young adults (18 to 34) make up 33% of the population but only 18% of likely voters, while adults ages 35 to 54 are proportionally represented. Eight in ten likely voters either have some college education (41%) or are college graduates (41%); 17% have no college education. Forty-four percent of likely voters have annual household incomes of $80,000 or more, while 27% earn between $40,000 to under $80,000 and 29% earn $40,000 or less. The vast majority of likely voters (69%) are homeowners, while three in 10 (31%) are renters. In contrast, 68% of unregistered adults and 63% of infrequent voters are renters. Eighty-four percent of likely voters were born in the US (16% are immigrants). Women (52%) and men (48%) make up similar shares of the likely voters in California.
- The regional distribution of likely voters matches the state’s adult population.
The share of likely voters in each region mirrors the region’s share of the state’s overall adult population: Los Angeles County (27% of adults, 27% of likely voters), the San Francisco Bay Area (20% of adults, 21% of likely voters), Orange/San Diego Counties (17% of adults, 18% of likely voters), the Central Valley (17% of adults, 17% of likely voters), and the Inland Empire (11% of adults, 9% of likely voters). The largest shares of infrequent voters (29%) and unregistered adults (25%) live in Los Angeles County.
California’s likely voters