This summer is seeing a flurry of political activity aimed at November 2024: a collection of GOP presidential hopefuls are courting voters in the early primary states, while a slew of US Senate seekers in California are getting an introduction to the vast size and diversity of the Golden State. California voters have not settled on a replacement for US Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has served for 30 years. Meanwhile, nationwide political polarization seems to have trapped presidential politics in a time warp.
Here is an early read on the 2024 races from the July PPIC survey:
California senate primary. So far, the race to replace Senator Dianne Feinstein is wide open. Three Democratic members of Congress are polling in the teens among likely voters—Katie Porter (19%), Adam Schiff (16%), and Barbara Lee (13%). Six Republican candidates are each receiving less than 10% of the vote. Remarkably, only 6% of likely voters say they don’t know who they would vote for—especially striking in a senate primary with no well-known candidates. This primary will determine the top two senate candidates for the November election. It seems most likely that two Democrats will make the top two and repeat what happened in the last two senate races (2016: Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez; 2018: Dianne Feinstein and Kevin de León). But it is currently far from certain who the top two vote getters will be.
Republican presidential primary. California Republicans will be voting in the Super Tuesday presidential primary on March 5. Former president Donald Trump is supported by 50% of Republican likely voters—the same as in the June PPIC Survey, which was conducted before the federal indictments on charges of his mishandling classified information. Today, Florida governor Ron DeSantis has 24% and all other GOP candidates are in single digits—ranging from 6% (former vice president Mike Pence) to 1% (Vivek Ramaswamy). It is telling that just 3% either name “someone else” (2%) or say they don’t know (1%) who they would vote for.
Presidential election. What if the 2024 presidential election is a rerun of the 2020 election? California likely voters say they would choose Joe Biden over Donald Trump by a wide margin (57% to 31%). The results were similarly lopsided in the June PPIC survey (58% Biden, 25% Trump). These two 2023 polls are consistent with the landslide victory for the Democratic candidate in the 2020 California election (63.5% Biden, 34.3% Trump). In an obvious sign of the polarization of the partisan electorate today, 84% of Democrats say they would vote for Biden and 77% of Republicans would vote for Trump. Meanwhile, independent likely voters continue the trend of leaning toward the Democratic candidate (50% Biden, 25% Trump). Interestingly, 11% of all likely voters and 21% of independent likely voters say they would vote for “someone else”—a trend to watch to watch if an independent or third party candidate enters the race.
Voter turnout will be the political wild card in an unusually busy election year in California. Will Donald Trump once again energize his political base in the March presidential primary? Will Republicans have a reason to vote in the senate primary—and if they don’t, how will this impact the partisan makeup of the top two legislative races in November? Will a Biden-Trump rematch bring out large numbers of voters who want to be sure that their side wins—or will voters stay home because they are bored and disillusioned with having the same choices as they did in 2020?
The fall turnout may also determine the 52 California house races and the balance of power in a closely divided Congress, not to mention the fate of ballot measures that have major implications for the state’s future. Stay tuned as the PPIC Statewide Survey keeps its fingers on the pulse of the electorate throughout this eventful election season.