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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

    table - Race and Voting in California

    SOURCES: Eight PPIC Statewide Surveys from September 2017 to July 2018, including 7,999 likely voters.

    NOTES: “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 these criteria and regional definitions, visit www.ppic.org/wp-content/uploads/SurveyMethodology.pdf. For race and ethnicity, results are presented for non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic Asian Americans, non-Hispanic African Americans, and non-Hispanic “other race” and multiracial adults.

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.


Related Content

California Voter and Party Profiles
California’s Likely Voters
California’s Independent Voters
Millennial Voters and California Politics

Supported with funding from the James Irvine Foundation

Authors

Mark BaldassareMark Baldassare
President and Chief Executive Officer
Dean BonnerDean Bonner
Associate Survey Director
Photo of Alyssa DykmanAlyssa Dykman
Research Associate
Staffphoto LopesLunna Lopes
Research Associate
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