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Blog Post · April 10, 2024

An Early Look at the November Election

photo - Vote 2024 Sign and US Flag

With the results of California’s March primary about to be officially certified, the November ballot is taking shape. How would Californians vote in the presidential, US Senate, and US House races if the election were held today? In the wake of a low-turnout primary, how are California’s voters feeling about their ballot choices and about voting in November? And, finally, how is the roster of state ballot measures shaping up? Here is an early look from the April PPIC Statewide Survey.

US presidential race. California presidential primary wins for both President Joe Biden (89%) and former president Donald Trump (79%) were key in confirming their fall rematch. If the November election were held today, California likely voters would choose Joe Biden over Donald Trump by a 23 point margin (54% to 31%). We found similar preferences when we asked about a two-person race in several previous surveys, starting in June 2023  (58% Biden, 25% Trump) and holding steady, and our polling is aligned with the results of the 2020 California election (63.5% Biden, 34.3% Trump). Biden leads Trump across age, income, and racial/ethnic groups and in the coastal regions, while partisans are deeply divided (86% of Democrats for Biden; 76% of Republicans for Trump) and independents lean toward Biden (45%; 29% Trump). Eleven percent would vote for “someone else,” including 5% of Democrats, 11% of Republicans, and 23% of independents. In our future surveys, we will include third-party presidential candidates.

Remarkably, just 36% of California likely voters say that they are satisfied with the choices of candidates in the election for US president in 2024 (36% Democrats, 52% Republicans, 16% independents). In the wake of the low-turnout primary, about four in ten continue to say they are “not too” or “not at all” enthusiastic about voting for president this year (43% February, 43% April). Democrats (39%) and Republicans (34%) are similarly likely to say they have little or no enthusiasm, while majorities of independents (57%) and those under 45 years old (53%) hold this view. This “enthusiasm gap” has implications for turnout and outcomes in down-ticket races across California, including the competitive House races that will help determine which party controls Congress.

US Senate Race. This is our first reading after a March Senate primary that ended in a virtual tie between Democrat Adam Schiff (31.6%) and Republican Steve Garvey (31.5%) in the high-profile race for the seat once held by Dianne Feinstein. If the November election were held today, Schiff would lead Garvey by a wide margin (61% to 37%) among California likely voters. Partisans are deeply divided—92% of Democrats favor Schiff and 88% of Republicans favor Garvey—while independents favor Schiff over Garvey (58% to 38%). Majorities across demographic groups and in the coastal regions favor Schiff over Garvey. Two percent are undecided.

In fact, most California likely voters are happy with their Senate choices (62%)—and even in the wake of controversy over political gamesmanship in the March Senate race, 68% say that the top-two primary has been mostly a good thing for California. Half or more across partisan and demographic groups and state regions are satisfied with their ballot choices in the Senate race and view the top-two primary as mostly a good thing. Democrats (72%) are more likely than Republicans (56%) to say they are satisfied with their choice of Senate candidates in the November election and to see the top-two primary as mostly a good thing for California. Only half of independent voters are satisfied with their choices in the Senate race, while two in three say the top two primary has been mostly a good thing.

US House races. The 52 US House members from California include 40 Democrats and 11 Republicans; one seat is vacant. Incumbents won most of the top-two primaries, and major party candidates will face off for a few open seats in November. If the election were held today, 60% of likely voters would choose the Democratic candidate in their House district, while 38% would vote for the Republican. Views were similar in February (61% Democrat, 36% Republican). Today, 95% of Democrats would vote for their party’s candidate and 92% of Republicans would vote for their party’s candidate, while independents are more divided (52% Democrat, 43% Republican). In the 10 competitive districts (as defined by the Cook Political Report), support is higher for the Democratic candidate (53%) than for the Republican (43%).

About four in ten likely voters continue to say they are “not too” or “not at all” enthusiastic about voting for Congress this year (44% February, 40% April). A majority of independents (56%) have little or no enthusiasm, compared to about one in three Democrats and Republicans. Even in the high-stakes competitive House races, 45% of likely voters have little or no enthusiasm about voting for Congress.

State ballot initiatives and referenda. California’s general election ballot will also include several public policy measures. The qualification process is still under way, but four legislative initiatives have qualified so far, along with six citizens’ initiatives and referenda; four citizens’ initiatives are at the 25% signature threshold. Legislators are considering placing state bond measures on the ballot—though they may be having second thoughts after the razor-thin win for Proposition 1 in the March primary.

While there is little doubt that California’s November ballot will include a long and complicated roster of legislative measures, citizens’ initiatives, and a referendum, there are some unknowns that could influence turnout. Will there be any state measures that are especially important to voters—as was Proposition 1 on abortion rights in November 2022? Will the millions of dollars spent on media campaigns for or against ballot initiatives make voters more or less interested in participating? Will there be televised debates and town halls on ballot measures that energize voters? As the November election draws closer, PPIC will continue to watch California’s key races and ballot measures closely.



2024 Election Adam Schiff Donald Trump elections initiatives Joe Biden Political Landscape presidential election Statewide Survey Steve Garvey US Congress US House of Representatives US Senate voters