Just the FACTS
Race and Voting in California
- California is a majority-minority state, but minority turnout continues to lag.
California became the first large majority-minority state as of the 2000 Census, and in 2014 Latinos surpassed whites as the largest single racial/ethnic group in the state’s total population. Today, according to US Census estimates, non-Hispanic whites make up 42% of the state’s adult population, but our surveys find that they make up 59% of the state’s likely voters. In contrast, Latinos represent 34% of the state’s adult population but account for only 21% of those most likely to vote. Asian Americans comprise 15% of the adult population and 11% 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 50% of Asian American adult citizens, 53% of Latino adult citizens, and 58% of African American adult citizens are likely to vote, compared to 75% of white adult citizens.
- Most African American and Latino likely voters are Democrats.
An overwhelming majority of African American likely voters (77%) and a solid majority of Latino likely voters (60%) are registered as Democrats. Among Asian American likely voters, half (50%) are registered as Democrats, 20% as Republicans, and 28% as independents (previously called “decline to state” and now called “no party preference” voters). Party registration among white likely voters is more evenly divided, with 40% registered as Democrats, 36% as Republicans, and 19% as independents.
- Within racial/ethnic groups, likely voters are ideologically divided.
Thirty-six percent of Latino likely voters identify themselves as politically liberal, while 31% identify as middle-of-the-road and 33% identify as conservative. White likely voters are as likely to identify as liberal (37%) as they are to identify as conservative (37%); 26% call themselves middle-of-the-road. African American and Asian American likely voters are much more likely to be ideologically liberal (43% and 48%, respectively) than conservative (24% and 26%).
- Asian American and Latino likely voters tend to be young; income and education levels vary across groups.
Asian American (68%) and Latino (67%) likely voters are more likely than African American (57%) and white (53%) likely voters to be younger than 55. Indeed, about three in ten Asian American and Latino likely voters are younger than 35, compared to only 23% of African Americans and 11% of whites. About one in five Latino likely voters (21%) and three in ten African American likely voters (30%) are college graduates, compared to 43% of white and 58% of Asian American likely voters. Pluralities of Latino and African American likely voters (45% and 39%) have household incomes of less than $40,000, while about a quarter earn $80,000 or more (26% Latinos, 27% African Americans). In contrast, at least half of Asian American and white likely voters (56% and 50%) earn $80,000 or more.
- More than half of Asian American likely voters are immigrants.
Nearly all African American and white likely voters are native-born US citizens (95% and 94%), compared to 67% of Latino likely voters; Asian American likely voters are slightly more likely to be naturalized than native-born citizens (53% to 47%). In 2018 surveys, strong majorities of African American (86%) and Latino (77%) likely voters have disapproved of the way President Trump is handling his job, as have 68% of Asian American likely voters. White likely voters are somewhat more divided, though a majority disapprove (43% approve, 56% disapprove). African American (74%) and Latino (73%) likely voters are the most likely to favor California making its own policies—separate from the federal government—to protect the legal rights of undocumented immigrants in the state (54% Asian Americans, 52% whites).
Race and voting in California
Sources: Eight PPIC Statewide Surveys from September 2017 to July 2018, including 7,999 likely voters. 2000 US Census; 2012–2016 American Community Survey 5-year estimates, US Census Bureau.